Just Call Me a Tortoise

May 20, 2011

I like to apply lessons I’ve learned working with Tank and taking riding lessons to other areas of my life. One lesson I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is “It takes the time it takes,” and the corollary, “go slower to go faster.”

I’m not particularly patient. I want to get things done, and I want them done Right Now. However, especially with a horse, I’ve learned that some things absolutely cannot be rushed. They take the time they take, and you’ll be much less frustrated, not to mention safer, if you relax—and sometimes throw out entirely—your expectations. For me, when I’m learning something new (or teaching Tank something new), things go better when I take baby steps. Sometimes to my embarrassment, I’ve become the poster child for baby steps at my barn as my trainer often uses me as an example of someone who takes things slowly. I am not naturally athletic, and frankly, I’m also a big chicken, so yes, I do take things slowly. When I take a step forward too quickly, I often end up taking two steps back. What works for me in riding is breaking down every new skill into small parts, then practicing those parts until I feel completely comfortable with them. Then I can move on.

Baby steps work great for other pursuits, too: cleaning and reorganizing the house, learning to draw and paint, changing diet and exercise habits and so on. The beauty of baby steps is that if each small step is solid, you’ll find yourself making steady progress. You’ll be less likely to stagger forward then backward in fits and starts. In this way, you will go slower to go faster.

Of course, this is what works for me. Each person has his or her own best method for personal growth—my baby steps may drive some people absolutely mad with frustration. This is where you must listen to your heart for direction. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa, so please ignore this advice if you’re more like a hare than a tortoise. Few things make me crazier than to have someone tell me my way is wrong and I should do things differently!

Sometimes I get frustrated, and wish I could progress a bit faster than I do and I have to remind myself that it takes the time it takes. Overall, this slow and steady method works for me. It works for Tank, who gets anxious when he’s not sure what he’s being asked to do. We plod along, tortoise-like, but we’re going forward. And that’s what matters.

Just so you know, this is not a self-portrait...
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” --Confucius

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  1. When I used to ride, I was such a scaredy cat. As a child, I rode Western style and as an adult, I rode English style. It would take me forever to get something down. Posting correctly was one of my biggest challenges. I miss it sometimes.

    My daughter, on the hand, was fearless about her riding. It always amazed me to watch her go for jumps.

    My fear wasn't totally off base as my daughter wasn't always good at judging distances. Thank goodness her trainer got her horse that was better than my daughter. If he knew he couldn't make it, he'd stop, but he also tried very hard.

    Reading your posts about Tank just brings back memories for me. Thanks for sharing:~)

  2. Sara--Scaredy cats unite! I'm glad I'm not the only one :) I ride at a barn that has a lot of those fearless teen riders, and sometimes I get discouraged at my slowness. I have to remember not to compare myself to them, and I'm OK. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  3. I think these are wise words actually. I am not a patient person by nature and I think it takes practice to really learn patience. If I don't see instant results when I am doing something I will often get discouraged and am ready to give up when it can just be a matter of time to do or learn something. By the way--it's very cool you ride--it must take a lot of time and work to care for such a large animal!

  4. Danielle--it is really easy to get discouraged when things don't happen quickly. I guess that's part of our fast-paced society.

    It does take a lot of time and work to care for a horse, but it's well worth it, I think. I board at a nearby barn, which helps a lot, too!

  5. Hi Kathy,

    I totally hear you! I don't ride, but I do know what you mean about adding on to the part that you already know how to do and then increasing your skill or knowledge.

    Sometimes just getting started and/or overcoming fear is the biggest hurdle.

    This was such an excellent post, Kathy. Thanks so much for stopping by to say hello too.

    God bless,

    Kathy M.

  6. ...baby steps is my motto too...my brain can't handle anything else any more!! :-)

  7. Kathy--You're so right that getting started and overcoming fear is the first step. You can't take any steps at all if you don't overcome your fears!

  8. Kelly--Your brain is not the only one!

  9. I take some things fast as I can be quite impetuous and other times I am so slow the moment passes when I could have done something with it. You are right in saying it's just one way of doing things and not the RIGHT way. I get so annoyed with being told I am not doing things RIGHT too! If it works, how is it wrong?

  10. Timaree--I hear you--if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?