Horse time!

What time is it? What does it matter? If you’re dealing with a horse, trying to get her to load in the trailer, or perform some activity by the end of your lesson, the lack of interest in your agenda can be frustrating at times. Most of us who work with horses know there is such a thing as “horse time.”


A horse clock does not have any hands on it.  It can take a few minutes or all day. Usually people who are good with horses and really speak to them can interest them in the activity early enough that the horse will decide to go ahead and do it. But that’s not always the case.

As humans we have lots of things to do. We’re very busy. We have jobs so we can pay for hay and buy clothes for our kids, and put a roof over all our heads, we have house responsibilities, some of us have medical concerns.

With horses, it’s a good idea to leave yourself enough time to get the job done. Make it interesting. Build pauses into the work. Allow yourself the option that if it doesn’t get done today, we can do it another day. Make sure you don’t get frustrated and lose it. The one thing we learn really quickly is that once we tip over into the realm of frustration – oh my god, I have a meeting at 2 p.m. and this horse is not in the trailer yet. If  we are savvy, we can feel the positive energy drain out of the equation with the horse. Ray Hunt used to say, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get the horse in the trailer, it can take 5 minutes or half a day. I still charge the same amount.

With that attitude, he usually got the horse in the trailer in less than five minutes. The horse would just hop on. The horse would sense the freedom in the mere thinking of half a day. If the handler had had a set agenda for this activity, the horse might have felt constrained. I don’t feel like it. I’m not ready yet. The trailer looks dark and scary to me.

So how we think of time really affects our horses big time. Sometimes I am called to do bodywork on a horse and the owner will ask, how long is a session? A session is usually about 50 minutes to an hour, but sometimes I run under or over the time depending upon the horse’s needs. These are physiological, structural and sometimes psychological needs. These also don’t have a time schedule. If I was to try to force something to happen during one of these sessions, the body would tense up and resist and a good healing connection would be lost. In this way people also run on horse time because bodywork techniques can effect a change so quickly they don’t need much, or they might need more.

Actually, if we all ran a little more on horse time, we would be healthier beings. We would meditate more, be more joyful, quiet down, organize our time more wisely (since we know how to do that).

I write this as much for myself as anyone else. I know I have an agenda – I would like this horse to be more comfortable under saddle, I want to find out why a horse has difficulty picking up the right lead, I have a clinic in a week and I want to be able to demonstrate with this horse, etc. When I was competing, I would run up against the time frame – I had so many months to train and if I hit a stumbling block close to the event, then I had to decide if I was going to override and do it anyway or listen to my heart. In order to do it right I had to allow myself enough preparation time.

Armed with the knowledge of the body and of the Waterhole Rituals by Carolyn Resnick, I can make that decision more easily and for the greater good of my horse and myself. Because of the Waterhole Rituals, I can also build my relationship with my horse by doing a lot of things he or she likes to do, so that when I ask more challenging things, she is more willing to do them.

Shelley_Macho_erideThis past weekend my friend Shelley Bachicha had planned to do a 50-mile endurance ride with her BLM mustang, Macho, but he suffered a puncture wound right when she would begin conditioning him. This meant that she had to re-evaluate her plans and wasn’t even sure she would do the ride at all. It turned out that he healed and she was able to do a 30-miler without any problem at all. She even completed the ride riding in a sidepull with Macho barefoot. Shelley has been studying the Waterhole Rituals for over a year now and has formed a good working bond with her horse.Shelley_Macho2

If I allow a lot of time for something to gestate and really evolve, rather than hurrying the process, then I am more open to the natural synchronicity of events. I can have the goal, but I can let go of the attachment to it and allow myself to consider other options.

(copyright Susan Smith)

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My upcoming Horses at Liberty Foundation Clinic will be held May 25-26 in Santa Fe.Book before May 10th (new date!) for an Early Bird Discount.  Learn from a Suggested Trainer of the Carolyn Resnick Method. If you’re thinking of visiting Santa Fe, this might be the time!  Contact me if interested!



4 thoughts on “Horse time!

  1. Thanks for this article! I shared the link on my facebook page. This is such an important concept, and one that I try to cultivate in my healing work and in the rest of my life, too.

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