Patience is not a concept I’ve had much contact with in the past. Like so many homo sapiens, I’ve always wanted everything to happen right now. I think it’s genetic. The shortest distance has always been a straight line. We humans tend to be that way. Especially in this millennium of instant gratification. But since my introduction to horses, I’ve come to learn that the good stuff just doesn’t happen that way. Whether it’s your horse, your dog, your business, or your life it doesn’t spin on a dime. You cannot snap your fingers and have your way. The right stuff takes time.
At this point Kathleen is laughing hysterically because she knows my history with the “p” word. She probably suspects that I can’t even spell it. Or couldn’t until I met up with horses. They’re still teaching me with every encounter. Especially that mustang, Miss Noelle.
I thought I had, at last, become a student of patience through our early work with the “Hillside Herd”. Then Noelle arrived and informed me that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. Thankfully the lessons she teaches also apply to every other horse on the planet, and to everything else I’m doing in life. As virtually every clinician I’ve ever encountered says: Take the time that it takes and it’ll take less time. The way my parents used to say it is: Why is there always enough time to do it again after you’ve done it wrong, but there’s never enough time to do it right in the first place?
All of this bubbled up yesterday when I stumbled onto the video of Day #18 with Noelle. Her 18th day with us back in early January of this year. I had not yet touched her and she had not yet eaten from my hands. Thankfully Kathleen had her point-and-shoot camera down in the paddock and had shifted it into the video mode. I remembered grumbling to myself that day: Why is she still shooting? It’s a waste of time! Nothing – I mean NOTHING – is going on!
But watching the video I realized how wrong I was. To view this video in its entirety is to never forget one terrific lesson in patience… and persistence. To watch this wild mustang, who had never touched or willingly been touched by any human, who had spent all but a few months of her six years of life in the wild with her family herd, to study her eyes and body language is to see a horse who wanted so badly to come to me, to be in relationship, to have a bite of what I was offering, but quite simply could only go so far. Could only progress an inch at a time. This was not free-choice decision making. It was hard-wired fear from a lady who had been taught from the moment she was born to suspect everything. Flee first and ask questions later. To understand this, to understand what she was saying, was to understand from whence she came. And that understanding filled me with what I needed to hang in there. To stick with it. To not get antsy and blow it. To leave the decision entirely up to her. To prove to her that I could be trusted when she – not I – worked it out.
To be patient.
If you can last through this video, it will be something you won’t soon forget. Holy moly. This is excruciating! But that means the message will be something you won’t soon forget either. I urge you to give it a watch. You might never have a mustang… but the concept applies to every horse, every dog, every encounter, and all of your life. Just click on the photo below.
I was thinking about all this when I received an email asking for some very specific advice. My first reaction was to say: I have no idea how to answer your questions. I don’t know your horse, or you, or your property, or your situation. And I’m no expert anyway. I’m a student just like you. Then as I re-read the email the above video came to mind and it became apparent that the issue was not that the desired result wasn’t happening. It just wasn’t happening fast enough to suit the author of the email. Her question and my response will have to wait for another post. But the conclusion was the same as the above video: if it’s important, be patient. The dividends are amazing indeed.