The key to training horses is patience. Not because horses are so slow but because human beings are so fast. As humans, we are so inherently predatory by nature that we want the horse to learn, to respond now–or even sooner! That means that our intention is not focused on the horse’s mindset or how it relates to the learning process but, instead, we are looking ahead for the result. When we look for results, we lose our focus, our timing suffers, and guess what? The horse has a harder time learning. So keep this principle in mind: in horse training (and in life, for that matter), if you want to speed the process up, you have to slow yourself down.
To remind myself to slow down, I have a trick I find useful. I tell myself that whatever task or skill I need to train my horse to acquire, I will give myself a year within which to accomplish that goal. My horse has got a year to work on it and learn it. That notion of taking as long as year seems to reinforce for me that there is no need to hurry. It automatically slows me down. When I give myself that year, the horse always seems to get the task learned in a few minutes or hours at most. In truth, I’m the one who takes a while to get it because the horse already knows whatever I’m trying to teach him but the horse is kind enough to let me think I’m the smarter one. In truth, to get smarter, I just have to get slower.
Additional reading: Chapter 9: “Patience” in Zen Mind, Zen Horse—The Science and Spirituality of Working with Horses, 2011: North Adams: Storey Publishing (ISBN 978-1603425650), pages 124-133.