Patience is a word that is frequently used in the horse industry. It is a word that is easy to understand but difficult to interpret. Being patient is easier for some people than for others. Some people have too much patience, and others do not have a drop of patience. Patience is vital to developing your horse and yourself as an equestrian.
There are several aspects of having patience that works in your favor. The first and most important is genuinely being patient. To do this, you need to be able to wait in a state of calmness that does not have any future intentions. Patience will allow you to stay in the present moment and allow your horse to focus on what he needs to do now, not in the future. It is crucial to understand how what we do now connects to future movements, but it’s also important not to get ahead of ourselves and put too much of our current work on future movements. It is also essential to hold the space for you and your horse so that the two of you can be ok with what needs to happen while being patient.
As you work with your horse, there comes a time when you “feel” you need to be more patient, and you need to know why. It might be that your horse does not mentally understand, it may be that something is making your horse uncomfortable, or perhaps your horse does not yet have the strength or balance required. Whatever the reason, you must know what you are waiting for. This understanding will also allow you to “feel” when they are ready to move on. If you know that you need to be patient but do not know why you will be guessing what you need to work on with your horse. Guessing will only hold your training back when you could be moving on to the next step.
It’s vital to understand whether or not you need to be patient with yourself or your horse. Perhaps you do not entirely know what to do or what things should feel like. Maybe you have some fear that you need to overcome before you can take the next step. You must be honest with yourself about why you need to be patient. Is it for yourself or your horse?
Knowing how long to be patient is determined by why you need patience in the first place. When you feel that the horse is starting to be more confident and willing with the reason why you need to be patient, you can move on. As your horse progresses through training, some things take longer than others.
Patience plays a vital role in how your horse will learn. How soft or solid is the imaginary line between a boundary or limitation, and how much of a buffer is there before that line? This line will forever be changing as your horse’s training continues. Do not force your horse to do more. Be patient, request that your horse try something new, and then encourage them to figure it out. A horse’s temperament or history will also determine how patient you need to be.
There may eventually come a time when you should no longer be patient with your horse or yourself, whichever the case may be. At a certain point in training, patience can become wasteful. This often happens with riders with fear issues and horses who have more whoa than go. If a fearful rider is not in the right environment with the proper support and guidance, they most often delay taking that step for fear of failure or perhaps getting hurt. They usually do not know when to take the next step and, out of fear, choose to be patient to be better safe than sorry.
Some horses will learn to take advantage of a person’s good nature and use their patience against them to get out of doing work that will expel additional energy. A horse with more spirit often begins to act out or suddenly become spooky. Actions like this can often mean that your horse is getting bored, and you missed the signs that they gave you that they were ready for the next step. A horse and rider need to continue to make progress so that they both enjoy their work and feel encouraged.
Remember, just because you need to be patient with one area of your training does not mean the other areas should stop progressing.