Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gaining Experience

Children, like horses, come into maturity and self-knowledge through experience.

I trust that this statement is sufficiently vague, leaving me room for illucidation.

While riding Honor last week, I pondered this truth. Honor is a mover, and at this point, he seems to  move mostly in high gear. He walks fast, trots fast, and I'm not sure but that his lope is closer to a flat-out gallop. This is slightly disconcerting in a small enclosure, and my initial reaction was to pull back on the reins. His response was to resist being slowed down. Obviously, I had to do something different.

According to Clinton Anderson, one of the best ways to teach a nice, easy jog-trot and a slow lope is not by pulling back on a horse's mouth. Rather, it comes from putting miles under those hooves. Let him move, and keep him moving. As he starts to tire, he will begin thinking about how to preserve his remaining energy. When he reaches this point, Anderson advocates keeping him in that gait, and letting him figure out that a slow jog trot or easy lope is a whole lot less tiring than push, push, pushing.

So Honor and I set out for a long ride. We probably covered eight to ten miles, and of those, I'd say he trotted more than half, and loped a fair amount as well. Did he begin to conserve energy toward the end? Well, it was not a night-and-day difference, but he did seem to trot with more moderation than I had hitherto seen, and when loping, did not seem to tear down the road with quite the speed he'd shown earlier in the ride. At the very least, it was a good installment, one that I can see we will need to repeat frequently until he automatically finds that easy trot or lope when I ask him for it.

Interestingly, it reminds me a lot of parenting and how often we parents tend to keep constant pressure on the reins, trying to micromanage our kids, teens, even adult children into more moderation in behavior and life choices. Yet under such handling, they, like Honor, often do not learn to regulate themselves. They learn to resist the pressure--fighting our efforts to control them or cause them to act as we desire.

How much wiser, then, if we give them the space to begin to figure out which actions, attitudes, and choices work for their benefit, and which, like Honor's flat-out gallop-lope, don't end up so well. This self-knowledge won't happen in one ride, nor one choice. But let them put enough choices and consequences one after the other--enough miles under their hooves, if you will, and they're sure to figure it out.

The unexpected bonus of my ride? I enjoyed it so much more than the ones on which I'd spent the bulk of my time hauling back on the reins, micromanaging Honor's progress, all the while wondering if I was going to survive intact.

I'm all for that. So here's to gaining experience and enjoying the journey: Trot on!


  1. You're such an inspiration Les! And you are also helping me see things about my horses and horsemanship in different and better ways :} I'm proud of you for your efforts and progress and envy you your courage!! Keep up the good work and keep on inspiring us! :D

  2. Quarterhorsey2--Sar, I have this brilliant idea: come ride with me! We'll embolden each other and have tons of fun. Think about it! :-)