Horses, Patience and the Unpredicability of Life
Patience is not now and just may never be a strong part of my skill set. I’ve never been patient. I hate waiting. I get remarkably irritable remarkably quickly when I have to wait under circumstances that just don’t make sense to me. If the waiting was unexpected or seems to be the product of someone’s negligence or ill will, I’m even less tolerant of waiting. My husband has had to adjust to my lack of patience during our years together. For example, when I ask him to help me with a task, say removing the stump left over after I have hacked down an unattractive shrub, I mean right now. In his head, when he says “Sure. I’ll help you with that” he means sometime in the indefinite future. He’s then shocked when he finds me angrily hacking away at said stump. He might say something like, “I said I’d do it?” To which I may respond, usually inside my head, “In what century?”
I have even more difficulty when there is a problem that clearly needs to be solved but doing so can’t be done quickly if at all. In my life with horses, I’ve faced my share of patience challenges and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve failed at most of them. We’re facing a patience challenge right now with our new horse. We found Tru just this spring (on April 2nd) and we were just settling in with him when he came up limping on his left front leg (on May 19th). I’ve heard it said hundreds of times that horses are incredibly strong but also very, very fragile. Still, we assumed he would recover quickly and we could all get back to work as the show season was kicking into gear. Well, that hasn’t been the case. After the first few days with no improvement, we had him examined by the vet. We know that the pain is in his heel but x-rays (traditional and digital) failed to tell us specifically what’s wrong. We were relieved that the dreaded navicular had been ruled out. The vet recommended corrective shoeing after noting that his feet were flatter than ideal. Our farrier made the recommended changes. There was no effect. The vet suggested stall rest and anti-inflammatory medication. While he looked better on the meds, as soon as he was off them, he went back to limping. The simpler and more easily resolved problems having been dismissed, my brain went fairly quickly to catastrophe mode. It didn’t help that I researched everything the vet mentioned as a possibility on the internet. Look up injuries to deep digital flexor tendons and collateral ligaments of the hoof and you will quickly find yourself drowning in pessimism. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks. Googling every dire scenario and dissolving into tears with each new horrendous possibility.
As of tomorrow, it will have been a month. That’s a long time. We’ve now been referred to a specialist possibly for an MRI. No, Tru doesn’t have insurance and I, unlike Mitt Romney and his dressage horse, am not a member of the one-percent. I was thinking about all of this while hand walking a stir-crazy thousand pound Quarter Horse during a thunder-storm. I decided that I had two choices, start sobbing again over how unfair it is that our fun summer with our new horse wasn’t going to happen or practice some walking meditation and get some perspective. I focused on my breathing and the sounds of Tru walking. We walked and I breathed. My oldest was riding our other horse Cooper who was being his usual irritating self. I decided to let her deal with it herself. We kept walking and I kept breathing.
If you do a Google search of the word patience you will eventually end up reading several blog posts which reflect on the 15th verse of the Tao Te Ching:
Do you have the patience to wait till your mud
settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
I still don’t know what’s wrong with Tru’s foot but I’ll just need to wait until the mud settles and the answers arise on their own.
Tru’s response to our walking meditation? As soon as we stopped, he flopped down on the ground right next to me to roll in the dirt of the indoor arena. Horses…