In a world that is so conditioned to get a quick fix, I find patience lacking~
So many want the solution right now. The usual retort to this need is a statement like: "Enjoy the journey, not the result” or “It's about the journey." Unfortunately, those statements, although seemingly specific, are actually quite vague when facing a distraught student who can't seem to "get it" after the fourth lesson..
So, what does a trainer do when faced with students with this mentaility? Usually bang their head on a convenient wall somewhere.
From a trainer's perspective, there are three things I will tell about the growing dilemma of ‘want it now’ in horsemanship. One, this need originally got us in this mess of not understanding horses anymore. Native Americans "got it" and I don't remember any whips or spurs on them. Heck, a rather limber warrior rider who could ride sideways at a full gallop with nothing on the horse except a blanket is what I remember. How did they learn? Feel. How easy is feel to learn? Not easy at all. It takes years, many horses, muscle memory, patience and practice.
The thing about “wanting it now” is that that feeling focuses you on well, wanting it NOW. When “wanting it now”, where is your focus? Your focus and despair is on your being frustrated, feeling a lack of connection. If you’re frustrated you’re not learning anymore, you’ve shut down. I would guess that in the last half an hour or so your growing frustration was no picnic for your equine partner either. Your horse is probably frustrated right along with you, and not feeling very connected. That doesn’t sound very fun, and who wants to do things not fun? Another question, why do you think most horses love kids? Kids are light on their backs and joyful, giggly, aka, fun. Adults? Task oriented, get it right or whip whip! Focus! I pay good money for this so you’d better get it right, right now! Hmmmm, not as fun.
In light of this information perhaps allowing yourself a try for “enjoying the journey” is in order. Enjoy the time you have with your horse. Be happy to learn new things but also see the horse’s mind set right then and there and present your lesson based on how your horse is feeling in that moment. Work at the horse’s level not what you wish the level to be. Set up a search, ask your horse a question and see what your horse comes up with in response until he finds the right response. Just like when we learn something, allow the horse to inquire, what? You mean this? How about that? Until the horse gets the right answer you are looking for. Remember: there is no bad horse here, just one trying to figure out what the heck you want. The “bad” horses are usually the ones who have had too much anxiety when with humans and thanks to the humans lacking patience and understanding, have now been brow beaten. That horse, most certainly felt forced into the answer. Such unfortunate horses are now making their own frustrations LOUD and clear. They show their anxiety in ways like kicking at you as if you were inconsequential, shying away from the saddle or mounting block, gate shyness, rearing, bucking. Their people missed the subtlety of the ‘try’ such horses were offering the whole time. The people built that ugly relationship, they just didn’t realize it. So often horses really are trying only don’t understand quickly enough to placate the human’s need for ‘now’.
Something important to remember is we are what we practice and practice makes for good feel. Can you figure it out for yourself? Maybe, but it’s sure a lot nicer to have someone on the side telling you how you look as a team and I am sure the horses would appreciate you understanding what you are really asking for sooner, rather than years later. Yes, lessons are expensive, but then again so are keeping horses. Find a teacher who makes things fun, who is clear and willing to build a relationship with you and the horse instead of forcing quick fixes upon you and the horse with artificial mechanics like tie downs, whipping and spurring to go, go, go. Find a teacher who knows the meaning of feel and can help show you the meaning of it. Find a trainer who builds YOU up along with teaching you how to be a good equestrian team mate. You will be building a great relationship with your horse this way and in the end they will do what you ask simply because you ask them to “try”. NOT going the road of quick fixes takes patience, consistent persistence, and a lot of “bang head here”. However you are a lot more likely to have a horse with heart and willingness to do what you clearly confidently ask them to do.
A fun tongue twister for you to think about: Patience takes practice and practice builds stamina in patience. You are what you practice, and practice requires lessons. So, I leave you with, “enjoy the journey”, because you are in fact learning how to teach what you want your horse to know and good teachers who know the value of patience aren’t made in a day.
-Kristin Praly Horse Sense.
Kristin’s Horse Sense mission is to provide a program for youth and adults that includes riding and care of ponies and horses. The goal is to develop responsibility through leadership and promote partnership without dominance, teamwork without fear, willingness without intimidation, and harmony without coercion - Horsemanship confidence.