Patience never used to be my strong suit. As a child I refused to wait for anything without putting up a fight. As a young rider I didn’t want to wait for my goals. As a working student under the instruction of my boss I rushed my young horse up the levels. I was not patient.
Life has a way of teaching you to appreciate waiting. There’s a lost art of going slow. I was never a fan of that, until I learned the hard way the peril of rushing. My former coach used to comment on how nice my horse would be if I had never left to be a working student. If we had taken it slow with him and given him years to build a foundation. Instead I moved away to work for someone who helped me move him from beginner novice to prelim in 14 months. At the time, my impatient self bragged about that fact. Now I cringe.
I was impatient. My horse paid the price by losing his confidence. I’ve spent the last four years trying to bring it back enough to save his career as an upper level event horse. After four years and many events, it came time to call it. It wasn’t fair to him to keep trying. He finishes on his dressage score 90% of the time at training level. At prelim and above he gets nervous, stops, and worse. At home he can school anything with confidence, but at the event something changes at that level.
Life has taught me a lot about patience. Patience has taught me a lot about good horsemanship. There is nothing wrong with producing a horse quickly, but that method is not for every horse or rider. It did not work for us, and I paid the price by having a horse with advanced potential finally tell me that he doesn’t want to try anymore.
Old me would have been terribly upset. I might not have even listened. The thing is, I knew this was coming. I thought we had a few years and a few intermediates and 2*s in us, but I knew it was coming. I cried a bit, not for my goals but because I promised my horse I would never give up on him, and calling it quit on these dreams felt like giving up. The thing is, my horse doesn’t care about these goals. He cares that I love him, listen to him, and that provide for him. He owe me nothing, certainly not campaigning at a level that he doesn’t want to do and is becoming unsafe at.
I’m not sure what are new goals are. I guess we will go and try to be training level champions of the world. Maybe we will put on our crowns and try for our bronze medal in dressage. I don’t know yet. But I do know we have plenty of tone to figure things out together. Patience is a virtue, that’s for sure.