” Go slow to Hurry up ” I remember hearing these words as a teenager from my Aunty Beryl (Bery Riley-Chick). When I was in high school each school holidays my sister and I would go and stay with Beryl and learn about horses, but the lessons learned there extended to many other life areas too. Beryl was a renowned horsewomen in her time – with a jumping horse act, jumping through a ring of fire and ring of sharp knives, through a tunnel and over a human hurdle. She also had a whip cracking act and rode bucking horses and bulls. All dangerous feats, which meant a very high level of skill and NO room for error. Beryl’s accomplishments were extremely high  – and one of her main mottos was  “go slow to hurry up”. She paid attention to every little detail and as a kid who naturally wanted to ride fast everywhere, I was surprised how much she rode the horses in the walk. All of this set me up with a really great frame work for my horsemanship journey.

As all things should evolve and improve, my horsemanship style and philosophy has evolved  a long way since then, mainly in the realms of wanting to create happier horses which is what this next era of horsemanship is about. We can do this because we have more time. We are not just using horses for work and survival, they are more recreational which also includes sports and performance. We have more knowledge of their bodies (biomechanics), body work has evolved and its availability increased and we have better saddles, just to name a few things.  However there are many things learnt from my time with Beryl that stay eternally true and have no need for evolvement. One of them is “Go slow, to hurry up”. Of course people can go too slow and be totally inefficient, or are unmotivated or feeling despondent. I am not talking about that or to them. This message is for the high achievers and those that are always in in too much of a hurry. When we slow down things can hurry up.

This phrase can be applied to many life situations and it can be dissected in so many ways. Like, slowing your mind down – getting calm and still, thinking clearly through situations so you can be prepared, organised, listen to your intuition, and make better (non – emotionally reactive) decisions, without being in a fluster (mini-panic). When we go slow we can get the job done right the first time, we won’t have to go back and forward because we forgot some tools required for the job for example and when done right, things will have duration and then not have to be repaired or redone. This aspect of “Go slow to Hurry up”  is an essential one for horsemanship (and life). Essentially it is the “centered” state that I teach and talk about.

Another big aspect of “Slow down to hurry up” is directly related to the development of horses. We humans usually want to rush and have everything done yesterday. There is a big emphasis on this “hurry up” in the horse world especially for performance. We have race horses, cutting horses, reining horses all out competing when they are still babies and of course it has detrimental effects on their soundness and longevity and this pressure also impacts their mental and emotion states. Even in the dressage world there is a push for young horses to be at high levels.

When we go slow in the beginning we have more chance of actually arriving to the destination (the goal we  have in mind to achieve) because we have a solid foundation in a strong physical body and a great mental and emotional state for our horse. The break down rate (physically and mentally) and the number of horses that don’t make the grade is huge!!!!

Not only do we more chance of arriving at our goal, when we go slow and build a solid foundation with the mind and body, but the quality of our end product, whether that be a safe pleasurable trail riding horse or a high level performance horse will be much greater and there will also be longevity.

When you “sort of, kind of” have things in place with your training and then you proceed to the next level – then you are only ever going to get mediocre results. You just can’t get to that next level, of quality, of competition, of feeling safe on your horse, of having a great relationship with your horse if things aren’t “right” at the lower levels or stages of development. Horses never reach their full potential without rock solid foundations in their physical development and their mental learning. Also their mental and emotional willingness or desire to participate has to be cultivated. Any horse that is feeling pressured and not heard or seen as the sentient (thinking, feeling, decision making, spiritual) being that they are,  can never reach their full potential or be the most safe and pleasurable horse to be around. Their mental and emotional state also is directly related to how they can use their body biomechanically, so therefore affects their physical performance.  “Fast tracked” horses are so often discarded because they are “not good enough” so people think they need to buy another more talented horse. The attrition rate in the horse industry is very high and so is the accident rate for humans and horses !!!! Horse riding is one of the hardest thing to get insurance for.

The hazards of not getting this solid foundation can be:-

  • Horses that are reactive, or shut down and then react out of the blue = very unsafe, not fun and poor performance.
  • Horses that are shut down or introverted = unsafe, not fun, poor performance.
  • Horses that physically break down = unfair and heartbreaking.
  • Can’t break through to that next level of performance = frustrating

A rock solid foundation also applies to the human in developing their skills to be a good rider and have skills on the ground. Everyone wants to learn the “tricks of the trade” (the fancy stuff, the high level manoeuvres) but they need to learn the trade first (a high level of foundationary horsemanship skills). A good foundation in horsemanship is just as important as a good foundation for a house. If you build a house on an unstable foundation it is only a matter of time before it all crumbles.

Be patient, enjoy yourself, the horse and the process. After all, that is what we all ultimately want in life anyway – to enjoy life, be happy, have horses as our recreation (fun, pleasure, joy).

Enjoy the journey – the feeling of true connection and having a great and long lasting relationship with your horse is the best part of the whole experience with horses. Care just as much about “how your horse feels” as you do about achieving the goals and you will have a much safer experience and it will be so much more fun.

So “Go slow, to Hurry up” and enjoy the ride.