The Importance of Patience

Patience is something everyone needs more of. It’s a constant struggle in a world that moves so fast. Working with horses is a good, constant reminder of the importance of patience.

I was reminded recently how important patience is. We had a horse get cast at the barn where I work. For those of you not familiar with the term, ‘cast’ is when a horse rolls over in their stall and gets stuck against the wall in some way that means they can’t get back up. Horses are prey animals and survived for millions of years by running away from danger, so if a horse can’t get up, they can’t run, and so in this situation most of them will panic.

For the horse who got cast, this panic manifested as labored breathing, sweating, and thrashing, which was dangerous both to the horse and the humans (me and my coworkers) who had to flip over a thousand-plus pound animal.

Once we had successfully freed the cast horse and it had regained its feet, it stood there still sweating and shaking, (Thankfully it had not been injured.) and I was reminded of how important patience really is.

I have a gelding named Nick. He was born at the barn and has been trained since he was a baby to accept the confinement of a stall, or being tied to his wall. Nick used to cast himself a lot as a baby. He was still figuring himself out. His training in accepting confinement, however, taught him that being cast wasn’t a cause for panic.

In his world, he would bang a bit, realize he couldn’t get up, and then a human would come and see he was cast and flip him over. As such, Nick never got upset about being stuck. No elevated breathing or sweating and as soon as a person came into the stall he would lay there perfectly still. Even when we flipped him over, he would lay there and allow the humans to move out of the way before climbing to his feet.

It got to the point that when he got bigger and heavier, that he learned how to get himself out of a cast state. He could either flip himself back over, or push against the wall such that he was far enough away to then get up. It got to the point where I would hear him banging a a bit and I would walk up to his stall and tell him, “You can get yourself out. If you’re having trouble, bang around some extra and I’ll come help you.” I knew I could do this because he was not upset about his confinement. Nine times out of ten, he would bang around a bit more and extract himself. The other time we would come (because we were listening to make sure he was okay) and he would wait patiently while we extracted him from a particularly bad angle.

This makes me think of how patience works. Sometimes things happen to us as a human. Some circumstance pops up and we get all hot and bothered. We ‘sweat’ and ‘thrash’ and end up doing damage to ourselves and others, even if mostly mental.

When what we really should do is stay calm and ask for help, (We can do it more efficiently than a horse.) or have someone remind us that we can do it on our own. That person can even be ourselves when the situation calls for it. What doesn’t help is the thrashing and the worry which can often get in the way of getting un-cast.

So next time you find yourself somehow stuck, try calming down (feel free to cry a bit first if you need) and then look at the problem from a different angle. A lot of times you’re not as stuck as you might think.

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