I want to start by saying I used to consider patience the exact same thing as procrastination. I had no time for patience. It was a dull, slow-witted thing, so foreign to me that I couldn’t even figure out what it was that people did while they were being patient. You know? Patience isn’t even a verb. Trying to be patient stressed me out.
My parents gave up early, having no patience with my impatience. The usual public school education didn’t even touch it. Clearly I needed horses to teach me.
Now I’ve been at it long enough to have had several horses school me and I have hindsight. Patience isn’t the same thing as experience, but they usually come in a matched pair. Not available by mail order.
It always starts the same way: A simple love of horses. It’s the most magical thing and it will half-kill both of you. There’s a reaction that happens when that love is mixed with a moment of equine confusion: Bewilderment, which can be easily mistaken for disobedience. Time speeds up, breathing goes shallow and lofty training goals degenerate into a wrestling match.
Impatience is when your brain has a runaway to the land of fear, resistance and frustration and drags your horse along. Horses reflect these feelings so quickly that we think it was them in the first place. Now who’s confused?
I am all for a gallops where our hearts soar with freedom and confidence. I notice a lot of us fall short of that Black Beauty fantasy. Can we all agree on one fundamental fact? Horses can not learn if they are afraid or confused. The best work is volunteered.
If that last statement makes you tilt your head to the side and perk up your ears like a corgi who hears kibble hit the kitchen floor, then you might be ready to take your riding to the next level. First you will need even more patience.
Patience is the ability to control time and influence outcome. Doesn’t that almost sound like world domination?
Patience is not just simply the ability to stay present in the moment, it’s how we behave in that moment. It’s the ability to breathe really deeply into a teeny split-second and expand it large enough, and make it slothful enough, to give you all the time you need to stay peacefully connected with your horse. Patience isn’t a verb, it’s a near Zen-like state of being where time slows and partnership grows. It is the one quality that raises any equine endeavor to an art form.
On the low side, patience doesn’t tolerate being hurried, shoved around, or jerked onto the bit. Go figure.
Ingredients: Start with one fresh, crisp horse and add one rider with heart and commitment.
Mix together with all the time in the world. It’s elastic, let it be any size and shape when you start. Stir in positive training techniques and moisten with compassion for the horse and kindness for yourself. Strengthen with a shot of passion. Season generously with humility. Add a pinch of humor to make that last ingredient more palatable.
Mix with intestinal fortitude, you get that from your grandmother. Blend smoothly with consistency and fairness. Grease the way with understanding. Sweeten to taste with organic gratitude. Turn out and cover with acceptance. Let it rise to double and bake in the saddle to a golden color.
Serve with soft hands to the world. This is what riding horses with compassion looks like: a partnership where both sides feast on the best in each other. Then cut into small pieces of memory that last longer than the years we have with that horse. Carry them in your heart forever so that other horses can recognize it in you.
Does this all sound just too fussy for you? It isn’t too late to switch over to riding something with an ignition.
Patience, also known as living in horse time. May you dwell there forever.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.