Episode 137:The role of excitement and patience in horse training

How often do you practice feeling excited…and patience?
Is it more common for you to be excited…and rush?
In this episode, I use three examples to illustrate how learning to be excited while being patient can dramatically improve your ability to train your horse.
There is MAGIC in getting excited about something that will take a long time to reach. Listen and I’ll explain how!


Stacy Westfall: Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. In this episode, I’m going to explain my thoughts on excitement and patience in horse training. I came up with this concept in my group coaching call the other day and it really resonated with people. So I thought I would bring it out here to the podcast and to get you kind of tracking with me on what I’m thinking. Let’s look at another place where you could have excitement mixed with another emotion. Christmas, I think, is a great example. So have you ever been really excited about something that you bought for someone? I did this last year for Christmas. My kids are all grown and out of the house and I was so excited about what I bought for them. I was really, really excited. So I’ve been in this situation before and here’s what I want to ask you: Have you ever been so excited that instead of waiting until Christmas Day, you decided to give the gift early? I’ve been there. And for me, I would describe that as excited and in a bit of a rush. Now, I’ve also had times where I was really excited, like last year, and I still waited. I would describe that as excited and patient. And this is much more challenging for me to do because excitement and rush, those two energies in my body they kind of feel the same. So when I sit here and I think about being really excited, it’s got for me this higher energy, this higher vibration in my body. The way it feels on my body is this higher kind of an energy and rushing feels like that, too. If I think, oh, no, I need to rush out and whatever, it’s got this high faster vibration or energy. And so I think one of the reasons why excited and rush kind of feel like they should go together is because of that similar energy in your body. So I think the challenge is being excited and patient because when I think about feeling patient, it’s got a steady kind of a feeling in my body. So there’s this steady energy. And so for me, when I’m really excited about something like giving the Christmas presents, when I’m really excited and I’m trying to be patient, it feels a little more challenging. And it means I typically have to be a lot more aware because I don’t think my brain likes that contrast and so it will tell me that I need to hurry up and do something. And in a mute, I’m going to explain to you how this can negatively impact you training your horse.

Stacy Westfall: And I got thinking about this topic for another couple of reasons. One is the time of year and the other is because I bought a miniature horse. OK, can you hear how that–like, I’m like, I bought mini! Like excited makes me even want to take my voice to a different, higher octave. And so, OK, would you actually believe that I, I stalk Craigslist all the time looking for miniature horses? Like I’ve been doing this for years. And so I found one and I’d found one a while back and I don’t know if I ever ended up telling you guys in the podcast that it–during the vet check on that one, it did turn out to be a cryptorchid, which was why I had the vet checked done and so it was going to need the expensive surgery and I just decided everything didn’t line up the way that I wanted it to. And so I actually was watching Craigslist and I found this little mini and I went down there and I bought him and I brought him back. And I’ve named him Mocha. And if you want to see pictures of little mini Mocha, you can go to the website or Facebook and I’ll–I’ll put some up on Instagram, too. And basically, I’ve been wanting to buy a bunch of minis, but I’m going to start with one. I’ve been wanting to buy a mini–minis–for a while because I used to have a team of driving minis. I had bought them really unhalter-broke and taught them to drive individually and then taught them to drive as a team and just really, really enjoyed them. And I’ve been wanting to do that again. And it was really interesting because getting Mocha home and, you know, doing all the regular things–we got home, it was already dark and so it was kind of just the basics of, you know, getting him put away and that stuff. It was so interesting to walk out to the barn the next morning and really, really clearly feel the dance of excitement and then an underlying thread. And so this is how it really came to me is there’s this like excitement and there’s for me a little bit of a desire to rush. There’s a little bit of a desire to hurry up and get started and how fast can I do something? And can I get this mini doing liberty work like right now? Because I want to do liberty and driving. And so it’s got this kind of rushed excitement, energy, and then my more knowledgeable me says, yeah, you’re excited. Calm down and be patient. This is a long game. This isn’t a rush. It’s not fair to little Mocha and it’s just not good long-term training. So I think sometimes there are spots in life where you can clearly feel where you can have these two emotions that will kind of tempt you. So excitement isn’t the problem here, right? That feeling of excitement isn’t the problem here. It’s the underlying thread of feeling rushed or the underlying thread of feeling patient. So with little mini Mocha–I can also call him M&M–it’s going to be so many, many nicknames going on now. So I’m going slow, I’m being patient. I’m feeling that contrast where part of me totally knows how to do this, knows exactly how to execute and could execute fast and I’m slowing down. And I’ll tell you the most beautiful, beautiful thing about doing that that I can see so clearly in this stage is that little mini Mocha has just arrived in a new location and is a little more unsure of himself than he was where I bought him. And so there are those questions and he’s processing at his own speed. And if I get so caught up in the knowledge that I have and the techniques that I know and what I could accomplish and I go real fast, I’ll miss seeing some of those little things that like when you meet somebody new, there’s this this this time period where you get to know them. And it’s kind of good if you don’t, like, totally scare them with your energy. So–so that’s what I’m trying to do with little mini Mocha. I’m trying to let Mocha tell me about him as I begin the conversation of telling him about me. And so it’s got a more conversational feel instead of a game show, how-fast-can-we-go? kind of feel. And I think that’s just really interesting to know. And I’m going to tell you more about how it goes with horses you’ve had for much longer. I just think new horse fever might be a great place to remember that feeling.

Stacy Westfall: So the other reason that this is on my mind is because it is the end of June, beginning of July, and this is always my midsummer goal, reevaluation period. And so if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while or if you jump back to the January episodes, it’s like around Episode like 111, 112, you can actually hear me telling you what my goals were for this year and a whole bunch of things about goals. And so the thing about goals, especially long-term ones like one-year goals or goals that last longer than a year, is that they typically require some kind of pacing. And so rushing tends to have a short-term focus, but longer-term goals, a year or more, those tend to have a different effect on you. You can see more clearly where the rushing won’t help you if you can see long term. And this is one of the reasons that I really like long term goals and like revisiting them so I can remember them so I don’t get swept away in some of the shorter things, like the shorter marks that I make that I want to hit along the way to reaching those longer goals. But I’ve got to keep that long goal in mind. Or I might take shortcuts to the little steps that are building me up to this longer goal and those shortcuts are going to cut something off at the other end. That has been my experience. So to give you some more examples about that, this morning before I was recording this podcast, I took Presto out on a trail ride. And I’m right around 140 miles of trail riding out on the trails this year, 100 miles last year, about 140 this year. And I think we’re going to probably pick up the pace a little bit more now, depending on the weather and all that good stuff. But basically this morning, I’m out on a trail ride alone on Presto. The deer flies were trying to eat us alive and so despite the–the fly mask and the fly spray and my lemongrass concoction of essential oils and all the stuff, yeah, we just had to try to outrun them. And so we were cantering down the trail and I’m riding him one-handed and I’m swinging a tree branch with leaves over his head at the same time swatting things and just cantering along. And it dawned on me that I’ve arrived at this base camp, I’m going to call it, but I’m going to say I’ve arrived like there’s a piece of me that is willing to pause and say, I’ve arrived. I’m at a mark that I have been longing for since the day I got Presto. Because to me, what this represented this morning, when I’m out there, cantering down the trail one handed, swinging a tree branch and–and swatting things off his head and neck and–but as we’re going down through here is that I’ve reached this really solid foundation that I really, really hoped I would be able to get to with him because I think this is the great foundation for not just where he’s about to go, but this is a great foundation for his life, no matter what he goes on to do with me or without me in other industries or as a trail horse. He has this foundation that is so solid that I can do this. So I’m super happy. And in one hand I can feel I have arrived and that’s super exciting. And what’s really interesting is, on the other hand I can also feel that I’m just getting started because if Presto had his own training pyramid, everything I’ve done up till now has been the base. Presto is now five years old and I started riding him as a three-year-old. So I rode him starting about this time of year when he was three, all the way to four, all the way to five. And so I’ve been riding him for a couple of years and I’m super excited that I’m cantering down the trail, one hand is swinging a branch over his head. Now, there could be people out there listening that think that is pretty amazing that you’re doing that, and there are other people thinking, couldn’t you have done that in like 30 days? And so it’s really interesting to look at all the different thoughts that come up and–and whether those–those thoughts would have involved rushing or whether they would have involved patience or this other thing. I needed to move at Presto’s pace. I have had other horses where I could have been doing that after 30 days, no joke. But that wasn’t Presto. So what’s interesting is as you’re analyzing your own situation and your own horse, it’s being able to recognize their pace, just like I mentioned a minute ago with Mocha and making sure I go slow enough that I can see Mocha and understand more about who he is because if I just move super fast, I might miss some of who he is. But sometimes you do find horses, they can go really fast and that’s really fun if you have the tools. But sometimes if you’re like me and you even have the tools, you still need to practice the self-control. Does that sound like another word for patience? The self-control needed to move at the horse’s pace? And that’s what I believe I’ve been doing with Presto over the last couple of years. And it’s a long-term game for me. I really want to hit some very, very long-term goals with him. And it’s super exciting to me that I’m hitting some of these short-term ones. But for me, it’s all about this base that today I feel like I have reached. That base feels solid. Now I can get started with the really fun stuff. Isn’t it funny? It’s been fun for me the whole time and now I feel like it’s about to get even more fun. That’s what I’m talking about with this dance of excitement and patience minus the rush.

Stacy Westfall: So I jumped back and looked at Episode 112, which is where I declared some of my goals for 2021. And here are Presto’s just so we can do a little update. So Presto’s goals were show at a live dressage show, and back then I said he’s never worn the saddle and I have no English bridle for him. Both of those are still true. I still have not shown him at a live dressage show and he still hasn’t worn the dressage saddle and I still don’t have a dressage bridle for him. So I haven’t hit that one yet. Trail riding. We are nailing that one. That one I’m going to continue to do it, but I could check it off the list if I wanted to because we have hit the goal with the trail riding and now it’s all going to just be building up that base. But I’ve kind of hit there, so that’s good. Hauling to places to ride and travel experience. I’ve actually thrown him in the horse trailer and taken him to the last two reining shows. I lead him around and say, not a reiner when people look at me really funny because he’s giant and not a reiner, but that’s going well and I’m going to take him to this upcoming show also. Another goal I had was to teach him one trick using the clicker training. And so he kind of halfway he knows a trick. I won’t call it a real trick, but he knows he knows that when the clicker comes out that he knows searching for, like where the rewards are. That could be considered a trick. I’ll get more specific. I already know that one will be more fun for me in like November and December because that’s when it’s cold and I don’t want to be outside and I won’t be trail riding. So that’ll be a great time to do that one. Look, I have trail riding a second time on here. I must have really wanted to trail ride. And then teaching him to neck rein. So would I declare that he’s a finished neck reining horse? No, but I will declare that he is neck reining. So I’m riding him for a long time, you know, with just neck reining and using my other hand for other things. I still would want to refine it to have it be like a finished neck rein, but I can check that one off the list. So when I look back through, I can count it as one, two, three, four, five things that I wanted to accomplish, if you don’t count the fact that I listed trail riding twice. Five things I wanted to accomplish, I’m halfway through the year and I’ve done one and a half and I’m super excited.

Stacy Westfall: So check in with your goal setting and check in with your mind and see how that’s going for you because legitimately, I’m super excited and I’ve done about one and a half. I guess you could kind of count the hauling as another–another half. So, like, so maybe I’m up to two out of five. So I’m not even halfway there, even though halfway through the year, and I’m totally on board because I know how this game works. When I pulled up Presto’s goals from Episode 112, I also went ahead and grabbed Willow’s goals from 112 so that I could discuss them a little bit here and continue the idea of excitement-rush or excitement-patience. So let’s review her goals that I declared in Episode 112. Earn my silver medal in traditional dressage with her. Earn NRHA money in reining. Work–ride in a working equitation clinic, trail ride, take lessons, enter an online show for feedback and show in fourth level Western dressage, and make level-Level 4 Test 4 feel easy. So those were the goals that I read back in Episode 112, and if I go through them again, earn silver medal in traditional dressage, it’s almost July and she hasn’t had the traditional dressage saddle on yet this year. And I still think I’m on track, even though she hasn’t had the saddle on yet. This year, earn NRHA money, earn reining money in the National Reining Horse Association and we did that. So that was a really big one for me. We did that. Ride in a working equitation clinic. That has not happened yet. That one might end up sliding out to the end of the year because that could be something that would be, you know, something I could squeeze in again, maybe in that like November, December kind of an area, since it doesn’t exactly tie in. It doesn’t conflict with any other goals, but it doesn’t exactly tie in with any of them so I can kind of push that one around a little bit. Trail ride, been trail riding. She’s around 40 miles of trail ride compared to Presto. So, you know, she’s doing more showing and she’s not doing as much trail riding. He’s doing more trail riding, no showing. So that makes sense. Take lessons. Haven’t been taking lessons because the lessons I want to take are going to be in dressage. So after I get through my August reining show is when I kind of have in my calendar to transition over to traditional dressage. So that’s not happening yet. Enter an online show for feedback. Did that I’ve entered and–actually wait a minute, I didn’t enter Willow in the International Western Dressage show. I entered Gabby. So look at that. If I had reviewed this, I could have entered and checked that one off.mI guess I’ll have to enter a different one. Show in fourth level Western dressage, make 4-4 feel easy. Well, there you go. I might have to combine those two. I might have to start practicing Level 4 Test 4 and enter an online show for feedback and then I could knock out two of those in one setting. But you know, those will work really well together once I transition away from the reining in August and over to the traditional dressage showing because that makes sense that those would line up better. So even though I have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven goals listed for her and I’ve accomplished two, I’ve earned the reining money and I’ve taken her trail riding. Two out of the seven and I totally think I’m on track. So that’s what excited-patience can do for you.

Stacy Westfall: Now, what’s really interesting is that that is just kind of a recap. But I want to tell you a little bit more because I think when you see the big picture, you can hear the dance of the temptation to rush a little bit better. So just as a little recap with Willow. I sold her as a weanling. I bought her back as an unstarted four-year-old because she didn’t get big enough and so she was unstarted as a four-year-old. And then I started riding her and six years later, now she’s ten. Six years later I’m now getting close. So six years of riding and I feel like I’m getting close with Willow. And I think that’s so interesting because sometimes it’s I see people that I’m coaching and they’re really in a rush. And that’s where I’m always curious about what their long term and their short term, their long term and their short term goals are. Short can be as short as your next ride, and long can be as long as a year or a lifetime. But I just want to know the contrast between those two, and here’s why. Two days ago, I’m out riding Willow and I’m prepping for a reining show that will happen next week. And I’m out there doing it and I’m working on my circling and I’m realizing because I’m choosing to use my legs more and my reins less. So I’m adding more and more very detailed leg cues and I’m reducing my rein cues, which she’s really solid with the rein cues. So I’m obviously I’m neck reining now for the reining versus showing in the dressage, which is what I did all last year. And so as I reduced the reins, it feels like a lot to her because we’ve been doing a lot with reins. And as I add more leg cues I’m adding a lot of the leg cues that are very similar to my bridleless leg cues. And there was this moment two days ago when I realized that she was making these certain mistakes, speeding up, you know, getting kind of confused about whether she was supposed to turn more or speed up or look in or look out and some of these different things because I’m not using the reins as much to guide her head. And I felt this moment of frustration. And as soon as I felt that moment of frustration, I was able to to–to think to myself, why do you feel frustration, this tightness in your body? Why are you feeling frustrated? And I thought this isn’t going well for the show this weekend. So this next week, next week is coming up. And so in my mind, it’s like right around the corner. And I could feel that it was that goal of going to the show and showing at the show that was causing the frustration. It was at that thought that I’m going to do something wrong with the show and my–the fact that she’s having all these questions right now. And so it’s not the fact that she’s having the questions it’s the fact that she’s having the questions and the show’s coming up. And that’s the dance that led me to have this feeling of frustration. And so, that, as soon as I could identify it, it was so easy for me to slow down and remember the long-term game. This year’s long term game for me is about reining and dressage. And if I really, really look at it, I’ve already hit my goal with reining. She’s already won NRHA money. And so really it almostm you could almost argue that I’m starting to transition towards dressage, but I’ll actually say I’m still doing both. I’m doing both. But I don’t want to do anything in one that’s going to damage the other. And the damage was actually coming from the thought that I’ve got to somehow rush to get to this show. This show is just another step along the way in this very long game that I have going on with learning more about horses in my life and learning more about this horse in particular and teaching this horse as many different things as I can so that I can learn more about that process. And right now, if I decide to rush to the show and I decide to use that rushing energy that I could even label as excited and rushing because it’s kind of fun to go to a horse show and do well. I could rush into this showband maybe have a better outcome for this show, but set myself to slow her down. It would end up slowing my progress for the end of the year and maybe even confuse her long term because of the pressure that I would also apply during the rushing. So a lot of times it comes down to feeling like if you’ve got this rushing energy like I was having headed to this show that is to me at this point is a red flag that I might do something that might look good in the short term, but cost me in the long run.

Stacy Westfall: So as soon as I recognized that I slowed way down. I quit cantering. I went back to like walking and trotting and steering with my legs and showing her and answering the questions. It was so fascinating as I slowed it down and I could feel her relax because I relaxed. I let go of the outcome of this next show because I’m looking a lot further out. And then I went out, I skipped a day of riding her and then I just went out this morning and I rode her and I rode her for about 30 minutes. There’s a show coming up next week. So here’s the deal. I can sit here and tell you that I understand this. I even know that when I’m doing these exercises with Willow, I’m planting seeds that are going to help her out in the future. When I slow down, I’m doing this with the specific leg cues in this teaching. But there is still another part of my brain that is freaking out that I’m not running and sliding and spinning and prepping for the horse show next week. And I just want to share that with you, because I think sometimes people hear me, see me, and they see like if you watched me this morning, I looked totally chill. I looked like I was relaxed and confident in what I’m doing. And I’m just telling you, there’s another part of my brain that is yelling at me while I’m practicing being patient. That other part of my brain is telling me how I’m way off track. I just want you to know that because you very well could be experiencing that at moments when you’re training your horse because you’ve got long term goals or maybe you’re really excited about something and maybe it is a horse show next weekend. I’m just telling you that what I know is it’s really important for me to remember that I can be really excited and that helps me get out to the barn and do this work when it’s really hot and it’s really humid and it’s really cold or it’s really whatever the extreme is, wherever you are, that excitement helps me. But patience with the excitement is a superpower. I think it’s just easy to get excited or really disappointed for something in the short term. And I think that’s when the magic of having long-term vision, long-term goals, can help you get excited about the progress you’re making on those long-term goals. And you can get really excited. And that long-term goal can help you also stay patient. And it’s so cool when you can feel excited and patient at the same time. Thanks so much for listening. I hope this helped you out and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Episode 111: 3 Reasons you’re afraid to set big goals with your horse

Episode 112: Can you have relationship AND results with your horse?

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