Friday, May 9, 2008

Slowing Down

The world spins faster these days than it ever has. We crave instant gratification, quick fixes, information at our fingertips in a split second. Those who understand the nature of balance are reminding us that sometimes slow is better.

You may have heard about the Slow Food movement that started in Italy and has spread around the world. They advocate taking time to enjoy your food by avoiding fast food restaurants, giving old-fashioned attention to growing and cooking food and eating what is seasonal and locally grown. I was very intrigued when I learned about it, and by following their suggestions, I think I’ve improved the way my family eats and enjoys food together.

In searching for answers to take care of my aging mother, I came across a new book called “My Mother, Your Mother”, by Dr. Dennis McCullough. He coined the term “Slow Medicine”, which offers advice on how to take the time to make decisions and create living situations that are uniquely caring and best for the elderly patient. He models his recommendations on the Slow Food Movement.

So, I decided that I am in favor of the Slow Training approach to working with horses. With all the recent news about the accidents and deaths on the racing and cross country courses, over and over it appears that people are starting horses too young and pushing them to go too fast.

I deliberately waited to start training Siete until she was three years old, teaching her good manners and groundwork and then, letting her live in a herd to learn from other horses. I wanted her to grow both physically and psychologically to be ready to be ridden. She’s had a total of almost a year of professional training and riding. This month, she’s going to be six years old, and I admit, I’ve been fretting that I’m not riding her yet. I’ve been feeling guilty and putting pressure on myself to move faster. But really, what’s the reason? It’s not like I’m ignoring my horse. In fact, our relationship has improved so much over the last six months that I’m really pleased. No deadlines, I tell myself.

Impatience is a hard habit to break. When I was younger, I missed a lot of great moments by wishing I was already moving on to the next great moment. Going slow allows you the time to understand, to heal, to accept and to enjoy. I’ve watched Siete grow as we both go through this training process together, and I’m continuing to grow along with her.


smellshorsey said...

Combined with impatience is the desire to "fix" things. You've got so very much wisdom in this post, and in your previous ones (I love the quotations about the fear beneath the grasping, and it was good to revisit the one from St. John of the Cross about walking in the darkness.)

My mother is also elderly but has Alzheimer's. She's actually gotten better in the last month, which is different from improving. Alzheimer's teaches family members about patience and having to let go of fixing things. Hospice has been a real help in this. The focus has changed from all that we need to do to stop this, to fix it, to what makes Mama comfortable. Is she happy? Is she comfortable? Is she at peace? I don't think that change in our focus has changed things for her, but perhaps it has. Now she's laughing. Now she's more alert. She even knows more of her visitors. Connection? Probably not. But we're certainly able to enjoy our time with her more when we've let go of fixing things.
I'm sure slowing down with your horse will bring you greater pleasure and probably even greater success. Good luck -- and thanks for a thoughtful post.

The Kittens' Mother said...

I watched the Badminton Horse Trials last weekend and heard about the deaths in cross country and they said that at this event they had improved the health and safety somewhat. I think it worked, no horses were severely injured. Only one had a small cut on his leg but he was otherwise fine thankfully. I prefer watching the cross country, dressage and showjumping events rather than horse racing. I once was switching channels and it stopped accidentally on horse racing and I saw a horse break its leg there and then. It was awful and I won't even think about watching horse racing because it takes me back to that moment.

I agree with you. People need to slow down. I posted about the Badminton Horse Trials the other day about how some of the riders were pushing and pushing the horses because the horses were tiring and one of the horses threw the rider in the lake because he had had enough and I thought that it served the rider right for pushing the poor horse. Although there were some riders who clearly had respect for the horses and the horses respected the riders.

The slow food movement is starting to appear here in England. I worry about all these chemicals that are used: pesticides, fertilisers, preservatives etc. The only way you could know well and truly what you eat is if you grow it yourself and it has been proven that kids will eat things they grow and make themselves because they appreciate it more. Here, a lot of children don't know what a turnip is or if they are asked where milk comes from, they answer "a bottle". It's shocking. We have always beem involved in cooking, baking, gardening, the animals etc thanks to mum. We have never had ready meals and only ever went to fast food restaurants if it was for a friend's birthday. Mum has always taught us how to make meals from scratch and even now, we don't buy frozen chips, we make them ourselves from fresh potatoes. When we move and we have a new cooker, we will be making our own bread, growing our own fruit and veg etc. Mum and I have always loved the old fashioned way of living. Right from when I was born, we had plum trees, apple trees, compost bins, and a vegetable plot. Even in school, we were taught to make an apple crumble using ready-made pastry and tinned apples! Mum didn't approve!! Our mothers and grandmothers know best when it comes to cooking and they were taught from their mothers how make things last and not to waste things.

Best wishes, from Meg and cats xxx

Hope and Rob said...

Great post! Amen to all that!!! We bought our horse a year ago and ALWAYS hear the comment "Have you road that horse yet?" But Blaze was slightly abused and he DESERVES time. He is doing much better and is getting professional training this summer, but last summer, I think training would have just confirmed to him that he should be scared of people. This year he is ready to trust and finally wants to be around people. Taking time is crucial! I'm glad to see other people realize this!! Blessings on your work with Siete.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm a great believer in slow is always better, especially where our horses are concerned. Having seen first hand how training that is pushed along too fast harms the very things we love, I will never again allow anyone to fast forward a horses training. All of our horses work at their own speed and each gets a plan tailored to their abilities as they progress. Happy Mother's Day!

LJB said...

Happy Mother's Day, Victoria.

You remind me not to criticize myself for the very few rides I've done with Sofia who is now 7! I've had other intentions but with her injuries now and then and my schedule and -- to use my critical terminology --my lack of focus, well, we get to what we get to and that's all.

There is always another 'now' moment.

Cassi said...

how I long for a slower paced life... good for you that you are achieving one!!!

Ewa said...

Slowing down helps to see and understand more, but the time for it has to be proper as well...
lots of inspiration I found in your post - again :)
lately my thoughts were around fear and it result wit a new post, that is coming...