At a recent corporate board meeting, a director said to the president, “You are on the back of a horse and it is running fast.” This metaphor reminded me how much the equine vernacular is so culturally ingrained into our everyday conversation. A fictional vignette demonstrating as much is fitting with the approach of the annual rite of Spring in America, the running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

Erin had been away from the office for weeks on a European vacation but had returned now, refreshed and rearing to get back into harness. She wanted to come out of the gate as fast as possible on getting together a bid for a valuable but hard-to-please client. There would be no horsing around for the next several days, as it would be all business. Hard work would give her a leg up on the competition.

The previous proposal Erin had prepared for the client had turned out to be an also-ran, which saddled her with worry. “Horse feathers,” the ever-polite Erin averred when she heard of the client’s rejection. This individual was particularly hard to deal with, stubborn as a mule, and, in fact, sometimes could be a real jackass in jockeying for a more favorable outcome. The client demanded perfection and was always looking to rein in spending “lest we go in hock.” It balked at anything less. Erin bridled at that but mused to herself, “Just goes to show you that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

Erin knew that the same old approach with this client would only be beating a dead horse, and it would stirrup trouble. This client was unusual, to say the least, a horse of a different color. Erin, in dealing with any client, did not like changing horses in midstream but that was absolutely necessary in this case. She needed a dramatic change of pace. That was her mane approach.

Erin’s colleague, Guy, offered to help with preparing the proposal in order to lend some additional horsepower. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Erin readily accepted. She said: “Thanks so much Guy, you are like the cavalry galloping to the rescue.” Erin continued, “Guy, let’s re-conceptualize this proposal before we write a single word, so that we don’t put the cart before the horse. We are on the right track and just need to tweak the proposal a bit.”

Erin and Guy worked with unbridled energy for several grueling days, spurred on by the knowledge that two heads are usually more productive than one. They thought that the client would be receptive to some horse trading, to curb some services in the proposal in return for a lower price.

Finally, Erin told Guy, in reference to herself, “This old gray mare may not be what she used to be, but we are in the homestretch now on the proposal and are nearing the finish line.” Guy thought to himself, “Erin’s such a thoroughbred, she never nags her coworkers or offers lame excuses. She is smart as a whip and never engages in turf battles.”

Erin excitedly hoofed it home on Friday evening to hit the hay early, spurred on by her impending annual flight to Louisville, home of the star-studded Run for the Roses. It was time for some recreation, and Erin was headed for Churchill Downs…and some well-deserved horse play. Come to think of it, another Churchill, Winston, said that there is nothing as good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.

Epilogue: Erin and Guy submitted the proposal right under the wire. They won the contract, but just by a scant nose in a photo finish. Then they were really feeling their oats.

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