A lack of patience is something that many riders feel shame about. I was one of those riders for many years, so I know full well how it feels. The initial frustration, the following swift judgment or potential explosion, and then the guilt that happens afterward. Let’s be honest, coming out the other side from losing your patience is rarely a good place to be!
And yet, for years I simply believed that I was not a patient person. Like it was something that you are either born with – or not
Now, I do think that some people have naturally more tolerance and more patience than others. However, I also now believe that patience can be developed – in all riders. It is simply a matter of believing you can, and then committing to doing the work required.
Developing More Patience is Work
I say this because let’s be honest, it probably won’t be easy initially. If you’re a rider who struggles with patience, there’s a good chance that there is a pretty well-formed habit or reaction that occurs each time you feel impatient! This is different for all riders.
Lack of patience can show up as anything from excess tension through the jaw, right the way to becoming physically aggressive with your horse or those around you
I think many riders also lack patience with themselves. When I’m working with riders in the arena, I often see this play out. The rider is ‘trying’ to do something. And they are trying and trying… Each attempt is with more tension through the body – which usually results in the rider moving further away from where they need to be in order to ‘ask the question’ with clarity.
As you work on developing more patience, keep in mind that it’s really worthwhile developing it for both yourself and your horse
And that this will take both time, consistency, and accepting that there will be a lot of speed wobbles along the way. Times where you don’t respond as you would like. But, unfortunately, find yourself playing out the old, learned, reaction or habit… It’s going to happen, accepting it before you begin the journey will make things much more enjoyable for you :)
1 . Have You Set Clear Boundaries?
So, before we begin working on your patience levels, I think that it’s worth noting what you are currently allowing. And what you’re not. These are your boundaries. So often, it is a lack of numerous boundaries that eventually leads to the rider losing patience.
Remember, if you have not specifically communicated with your horse about what’s allowed and what’s not… It is essentially your own fault when things don’t go as you would like
Another issue I often see is a rider who has not established firm and supportive boundaries on the ground. The horse will keep overstepping the mark while being groomed and tacked up, resulting in the rider’s patience becoming ‘worn down’ before they ever even make it into the saddle.
Part of developing more patience as a rider is knowing what you want and what you don’t. What’s acceptable and what’s not? Then let your horse know – and enforcing where necessary
2 . Set Clearly Defined Goals
Once you know what you want, you can now begin to shape or mold each interaction with your horse to work towards that. Meaning you will now have a clear picture of ‘where we are right now’ in relation to ‘where we want to be’. This gives you both acceptable ‘wiggle room’.
Knowing the differences between ‘here’ and ‘there’ will clearly define what is still acceptable as far as training, manners, skills, etc. are concerned. This gives you space – and removes pressure
So, for example, if your goal is to canter a 20m circle on the left rein, but you are both still struggling to pick up the left lead on the transition into the canter. A good ‘expectation’ for your next ride would be to begin developing flexion to the left. Even if it’s only in the walk for now. By doing this, you will have taken the pressure off; allowing space for more patience with that process.
Or if your horse is currently walking in circles and pushing you around when grooming and tacking up, your end goal might be that he stands still. However, in your next interaction with each other, you will decide ahead of time what your response will be to correct him each time he pushes you around or over. Implement this first… And you will soon be working towards the real goal, standing still. And, this way, your horse will also be more likely to work with you as he will respect you a little more.
3 . Become More Self Aware
This was a key step to developing more patience for me. I simply began to notice myself more. Initially, I was only able to do this after the fact. So after I had ‘lost my patience’. But over time, I was able to do it mid ‘patience losing’! And now, thank goodness, I can catch myself right at the thought that triggers the whole avalanche!
Where ever you can, simply stop focusing on your horse, and really – REALLY – feel what’s going on in your body. Where is there excessive tension lurking; and how does it physically feel?
And then just sit with it. It can feel REALLY mentally uncomfortable to notice and then simply allow the feeling of excess tension in the body. However, this will actually result in it dissipating. Meaning you can get back to ‘true calm’ much more quickly – and without doing or saying anything you may regret.
When we ignore the feeling of excess tension in our bodies or pretend it’s not there, we simply mask it for a while. However, it will usually pop up again, with even more ‘vuma’ soon after
Another way I have found to be really effective in becoming ‘self-aware’ is to imagine that I am being videoed. And thinking about, at that moment, what I look like in that video. It almost instantly causes me to ‘drop’ the tension and relax. It also causes my mind to think about something else. To move away from the initial thought that was triggering the lack of patience.
4 . Remind Yourself Of Why You’re Doing It
So, in the spirit of honesty, sometimes implementing self-awareness is not enough to reverse the feelings and thoughts inside of your body and your mind. Sometimes, you may feel ‘justified’ in reacting the way you either are, did or want to. And this is where I find giving myself a reality check works well.
Simply answer the following question; “why did I decide to do this in the first place?” Usually, the answer is ‘to have fun’ or ‘feel good’. Then, ask a second question, ” How can I begin to turn this current situation into that?”
Again, it’s at this point I often just laugh at myself! Laughing is a great way to allow the excess tension to work its way out, and cause no harm (emotional or physical) to yourself or those around you! Realizing that you are busy with a reaction that in no way aligns with your purpose for being there is usually pretty sobering. A great wake-up call.
Another way I find really useful to turn the situation around is to ask “How is my horse/the rider/my instructor possibly feeling right now? Are they confused, tired, frustrated, or fearful… If so, how can I help change that to something more positive?”
When you can intentionally put yourself into the other person’s (or your horses’) shoes, the different perspective is often enough to change the energy of the situation
5 . Be Willing To Fail – A Lot!
Finally, when you are on the road and committed to developing more patience as a rider, there will be speed wobbles. Lots of them! You’ll have days where your physical feelings will get in the way. Tiredness and hunger are two of the big ones for many riders! You’ll also have days where you will feel pushed for time. And then there are the days when other people will have an influence over how you’re showing up and feeling.
The key to consistently growing and developing your patience is to catch yourself, as close as possible, to the original thought that triggers it all. Some days you’ll have more success than others
One of the biggest challenges we have as riders (humans) is gaining authority over our own minds. Being able to notice thoughts, and not emotionally respond or react to them is the first step.
Being able to cultivate thoughts that produce more desirable feelings and outcomes is the next step, and this will take time and commitment
Remember, no matter how many times you find yourself on the other side of another ‘lost my patience speed wobble’, remind yourself that’s all it was. A momentary speed wobble.
Then pick yourself up, apologize to whoever may have been affected, and continue trying. Some days it might be better to call it a day, for that day. And there’s also no shame in that either.
In the beginning, it can feel almost impossible, but over time, trust me, it becomes so much easier.