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The Slower I Go, The Faster I Get There

The Slower I Go, The Faster I Get There….          my motto for the last several weeks.  

My horses teach me so many life lessons.  When I feel overwhelmed and think I can just barrel thru whatever it is before me….my horses remind me that if I proceed slowly, mindfully, carefully…. I will get there faster than charging full speed ahead.

I have had some things happen in my life that just take ~ time~.  Time to heal.  Time to produce. Time to acclimate.  Time to create.  Time to take it in.  Time to rest.  Time to ponder.  Time to observe.  Time to savor.  Time to relate.  Time to arrange.  Time to reset.  Time to change.

I think spring has always felt more overwhelming to me than other seasons.  Maybe this became a habit on the farm.  We planned during the winter.  We waited…and waited for the right weather.  We prepared to plant.  We observed nature.  We went like gangbusters when the time was right.  When the weather or small children or my husband’s work schedule did not cooperate we watched nature proceed on ahead without us.  Spring offers a short window of time to plant.  We watched the earth burst forth with life. We assisted in caring for the new babies on the farm.  We were often awestruck, exhausted, invigorated, discouraged but mostly mud covered and dirty!  The laundry piled up and the mud got tracked in and we had another round the next day and the next and the next until mother nature settled into the lazier days of summer.  Most of all, we learned to live according to the season.

Spring means work!  Summer means growth.  Falls means reaping what we sowed and to prepare.  Winter meant buckling down and burrowing in for the long haul of caring for animals and our own with shorter days, more needs, demands, and obstacles.  

Winter meant waiting for spring. 

So to take spring slowly, thoughtfully, carefully, didn’t fit into this pattern.  My horses reminded me though that to rush what needs time, only means it will take MORE time in the long run.

I was more limited with time and homebound, so I decided to take my great ambitions and aspirations in small bites this spring.  Imagine that?  🙂  I confess.  I was sort of forced into it.  BUT I am learning….let me talk a bit about my horses and how they teach me. 

Meet Willow.  aka Blue Lady.  A grade TWH mare aged about 10 yrs., newly acquired over the winter.  I know….what was I thinking???  I did not NEED another horse!  Who else has been there, done that??   Anyways, I really love this horse- of course.  No surprises there.  No- really.  I like that she is attentive to people.  She instantly warmed up to me so I knew someone gave her love and attention.  She is respectful of me.  Another big plus.  And she is a pretty horse!!  Love her coloring even though I know one never buys a horse based on color.  🙂  

The downsides:  She took forever…and I mean forever to fit into the herd.  Even today she hangs back a bit rather than stand next to the other 3.  She was super timid with the other horses in spite no one bullying or picking on her outside of normal herd dynamics.  She hung back and resisted integrating into the herd more than I have ever seen a horse do.  It likely was because she came from a home where she was either the only horse or 1 of 2.  Either way, her lack of socializing is evident.  She took forever to acclimate to her new surroundings too.  So whether that is due more to her previous life experience or some personality quirk it is what it is and I am hoping to help her along.  The fact she is good with people makes the other workable.

I have been working her on the ground mainly because when I rode her when she first came she definitely had trouble focusing on me due to her preoccupation with the new surroundings and horses.  I decided rather than torture us both, I would stop riding for the time being and do ground work.  Always a good plan when in doubt!  

I have been reading a couple books for inspiration.  The books are:

  1.  Lead With Your Heart, Lessons from a Life with Horses by Alan J. Hamilton

  2. Finding the Missed Path, The Art of Restarting Horses by Mark Rashid

Neither books are an instruction manual with set instructions.  Hamilton’s book is more of a philosophical, inspirational book written in a shorter, easy to read format.  Mark Rashid’s book is similar to his others in that it is in story form.  I have read all of his books and really enjoy his style.  Mark shares a bit of technique in his book but it again is more about mindset than a particular way or method to train.  I am finding them both to be helpful in keeping a good mindset and approach with my horses.  It is helping me to see the bigger picture in my interactions with the horses rather than meeting some goal set in time.  (There’s that ~time~ word again!!) 

I also am working with my TWH Porsche.  I had sold her last winter thinking it was wise to downsize and get down to 2 horses.  Porsche was still fairly green and I wasn’t riding her as much because I had a great summer of hauling out to trail riding my gelding.  It is hard to keep more than one horse ridden and exercised, especially is they are green.  I wisely thought the more horses I have, the less I can go off and do the relaxing trail riding kind of thing I was enjoying.  (True) 

I sold her to a friend in another part of Ohio who puts miles on horses and then often resells.  She was/is looking for a personal horse so I was hoping Porsche would be the one she decided to keep.  I know she is careful who she sells to but when Porsche went up for sale I decided I wanted her back. In the time period between Porsche leaving to her coming back, Willow, aka Blue Lady popped up on facebook for sale.  A different friend had originally shown an interest in her and just asked for my opinion.  I had contacted the owner to ask a question, for the friend. (Really!!)  The owner contacted me a few weeks later, to say she really needed to sell and was lowering Willow’s already low price.  I took the bait and bought her.  She is a pretty horse and I worried with the low price… yada yada, yada ~~  I know…. this is NOT thinking carefully, thoughtfully, and proceeding slowly.  Dang those horse groups and friends on facebook!!  🙂  I was actually somewhat relieved when facebook decided to pull horse ads.  Let’s face it- Facebook horse ads are for many of us are like fb flashing ads of meth to crack addicts.  It is the proverbial carrot hanging in front of our noses! 

Because of this experience …. and my prior 25+ years of horse buying, selling and rescuing…. my new motto, besides the title of this blog post, is 

Your dream horse is the one(s) you already own.  

Or similarly, 

Don’t Buy/Sell. Work with the Horse(s) You Have.  

I am vowing to work with my present horses to make them as mannerly, ridable, respectful, pleasant and healthy as I can.  Now I said it and you can hold me to it!  

It is my belief that a mannerly, respectful, ridable, healthy horse is (almost) guaranteed a good home. It is like a life insurance policy for your horse. 

It is the kindest thing I can do for them.  And it is good for me and my health and safety.  I’m not getting any younger!   Plus, I get the benefit of learning along with them.

In Hamilton’s book, he mentions that one should approach training as what can I learn from the horse rather than focusing on what you are going to teach the horse.  It is a mindset I can appreciate.  And my horses seem to be responding well too.   The less goal oriented, time focused I am, the better my horses do.  This is also, ironically, the way in which my artist’s brain loves to function.  I am the kind of person who loses track of time when I am immersed in something.  I do my best artwork this way but it is not a mindset the majority of the world appreciates.  I have to force my artist’s brain to be time and goal oriented, to stay on track, with the program and fit into a regimen that does not value creativity or being process oriented.  

Horses help bridge the distance for me between my intuitive, creative mind and a more regimented process.  Horses do not respond well to a willy-nilly, every which way kind of approach.  They like routines and to know what is expected and to have structure and purpose in their interactions with us. They like the release.  Dogs like rewards.  Horses want the release of pressure.  It is also necessary, for safety’s sake to work around horses with a predictable routine.  Horses want you to do and act in a way that they can know what to expect.  They want you to be ~~ grounded~~.  They thrive on that.  And so do I.  That is calming and reassuring to us both.  And we can, together, push the envelope to challenge ourselves as the opportunities arise but within that new environment, I need to provide the structure and purpose the horse needs.  So it is meeting the goal in a round a bout way.   We both win!  

Cimmaron, my main trail riding gelding 

My art studio and ‘mess’.  I began experimenting with poured acrylic paintings in the midst of working on several pet portrait commissions – some in oils and some in watercolor.  This meant I had practically every art supply I work without at the same time.  Not conducive to staying on track.  Fun, yes.  Staying on track- no.  

Leaving room for the awe and wonder.  

And a spirit of adventure! 

My herd ~  L-R Willow, Porsche, Cimarron and Abbey

Spring beauty! 

The process of creating.  Pet Portraits by Sue Steiner. 

My complicated training ‘equipment’. 

 I have been using Carson James as a resource for training.  I like how he is with horses.  He is down to earth in his approach.  I like too that the horses are calmer and more responsive as he works with them.  The horses appear to like him too.

My artwork which helps feed my horses.  🙂  If you enjoyed reading about my horses and process consider checking out my Etsy Shop or hire me to do a commission for you! They make great gifts and I am reasonably priced.

Sharing on social media is always appreciated.  

If you have made it to this point you must like my stuff! Your friends might too!  

Thank you and Happy Trails! 

Sue Steiner

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