A Recipe for Patience.

WMSunGlareI 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.

Recipe for Patience
(You want to make this from scratch, the store-bought kind doesn’t hold up.)

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.

26 thoughts on “A Recipe for Patience.

  1. Wow! I think the paragraph about breathing into a split second and expanding it is awesome as is like a corgi hearing kibble on the floor! I used to travel by Amtrak from California where I lived to Florida where my mum lived and sometimes then on to North East OH to in laws PA, but mostly Back and forth on holidays with my 2 kids, my husband would fly, I had fear of flying when my kids were small. It took a week, plus a day or two, delays all the time for freight trains & all kinds of other things, you’d get stuck etc. That taught me patience a long time ago. I needed a reminder today in so many ways and areas in this hurry crazy, do 10 things at once standing on your head & thats not quick enough life. So thanks for the reminder, I really appreciate your wisdom and wit immensely Anna and you write beautifully hopefully I will get some horse sanity time this weekend to ponder further and I have to be patient with myself that I am relearning just being around horses after a 35 year gap. Being patient means living in the present. It’s hard to do, but I’m sure the reward makes it worthwhile, and keeps blood pressure down.

  2. Liz Sterling

    This should be Page 1 in the (yet to be published) “If You Want A Horse, You Better Read This First Primer For Potential Horse People”, and the following statement will be in bold capital letters: “Does this all sound just too fussy for you? It isn’t too late to switch over to riding something with an ignition.” Amen! Well said, Anna. I will carry this with me during my weekend time with my beautiful mares.

  3. Suzanne in NC

    This article is absolutely marvelous. It hits me right where I need it to. I have always been somewhat slight on patience and it has been the hardest thing for me to learn (still learning). I am just starting to ride at home (having ridden years with a trainer), and this blog is very helpful. It is very different when you and your horse are the judge and jury of your own success. Thanks for helping me get better at listening to my horses. I shared this with my husband since it was so relevant to us and he just emailed me: “This lady is a really really good writer.” Amen…

  4. Susan

    My dear friend: My patience is looking right between my horse’s ears when she stops dead on the trail, head up, ears up. There is always something there. She knows it. I look and look and look and finally “see” what she heard or saw long before me. It often takes me a long time. Once I get it, she moves on. A true teammate.

  5. I love this. True to the bone and full of humility and humor. I am lucky enough to be reminded daily (read: humbled) by young, untrained, inexperienced horses. The reminder? I need to slow down, soften, wait for their release as though I am not invested, and let them make their choice. (Crossing my fingers that choice doesn’t need to end in a correction, but rather a “well done!”) And my job is only on the ground. I am grateful I am not trying to do this onboard as well!
    Patience, patience, patience. It definitely needs to be an active verb. Well said, Anna.

  6. Ironically the irascible, ride-on-your-back-bumper French have the verb “patienter” – but just because they have a word for it doesn’t make it a regular constituent of the national character! My horses aren’t good at patience – no concept of delayed gratification! – but with age and practice I am getting a lot better. Dogs and cats provide wonderful templates 🙂

  7. Beautifully expressed Anna – love your writing 🙂 Something else I’ve discovered, is if you are feeling so impatient that you can’t possibly imagine slowing down – leave the horses alone for a while! They will be patiently waiting for your return when you can breathe again.

    1. Really good point. Sometimes ‘walk away’ is just the ticket. In lessons sometimes I have the rider dismount and remount… kind of like a reboot. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Kelleyerin Clabaugh, DVM

    Just yesterday I was working with a new frightened horse that had been coming along well. I was a bit distracted by my own drama. I asked her to do something simple that she had done many times before and she seized up, squealed and about turned herself inside out. My immediate reaction was personal offense (mixed with frustration, disappointment and a pinch of fear) but in the same fraction of a second I realized what had happened and why I had caused it. I relaxed, I smiled and I started over. This introspection used to take me weeks to achieve. And during those weeks I blamed my horse long before I blamed myself. I am proud that now I can slow down time and split those seconds into fractions that give me a chance to see what is really happening. I have made plenty of mistakes along the way and been forgiven by so many horses. And it is finally paying off. Ironically, developing my patience is saving me so much time and I am getting so much further with my animals. Thank you for being such a beautiful writer. I enjoy how you always find a way to put emotions into words.

  9. Kelleyerin, Thank you for this honest comment. Being a vet, you see horses who are not at their best, and neither are their owners. I know the danger and difficulty. It ends up, you kind of have to be a trainer too. And I agree, the fastest way is to go slow. Thanks, from me and all the horses you see.

  10. Lisa chadwick

    I love reading your blog & this one really hit me. Hurrying my gelding takes extra time versus if I tried being patient first! Would you consider allowing me to publish this in my riding club newsletter? So many need to hear your wise words.

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