Slowing Down

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Shortly after a horse accident in 2014, I had to walk with a cane. The design between its black handle and its black rubber tip was pink roses.

That should have been the first clue that my brain injury had rewired my preferences; before the wreck, I didn’t like pink. Or roses. But as I looked at the other canes – somber in their black and navy blueness – this one stood out. Pink roses seemed to defy injury.

The pink rose cane gave other people a clue that I couldn’t move like they could, but often I felt like a rock in a stream; people would eddy and rush past me much like the local rivers do in Spring when the runoff from the Rocky’s is melting.

There were many clues that things in my body and mind were changing; one of the biggest ones was that I was relishing walking slowly. Before the accident, I rarely strolled. Power walking was my gait of choice. Walking slowly and liking it was a new sensation. I felt like a different person.

This wasn’t just because of the pain in my crushed right thigh. It was also because I could see everything in great detail. I found out each blade of grass, though green, was a different shade. Some were darker at the tips. I saw tiny flowers and felt the variations of the ground underneath my left foot. I began studying hoof prints to see where a horse was carrying their weight when the hoof landed on the ground.

I also noticed how fast everything was. Cars were fast; most people were faster.  It wasn’t just their speech that I could barely follow (though this might’ve had something to do with the brain injury), or that their actions were sped up. It was as though these things were the by-product of how they felt on the inside. I often wondered if this is how we feel to horses; unintelligible and edgy.

 

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Photo: Mark Rashid

When it came to working with horses, I thought I went slowly. It wasn’t until after I was forced to slow down that I realized that even my version of slow was probably still too fast to a horse. After the accident, because I was physically and mentally slower  I could feel how the world around me was sped up.

I’ve been revisiting this time in my life because since the holidays I have felt as though I am on fast forward. I’ve been metaphorically power walking past many of the routines that help foster going slowly. Yesterday my horse Banjo let me know this; he’s a master (as are all horses) at reflecting how I am interacting with him. If I’m quick and jerky, so is he. He showed me how speedy I am. Time for less power walking and more strolling.

We miss a lot of good things when we go too quickly. And I’ve discovered we miss a lot of communication when we rush through our time with horses. We get so focused on what we want to do and the time we have allotted to do it in, that we forget horses are creatures of Being. And Being, to be savored, is about depth and exploration. These are qualities that require us to slow down, and the rewards are endless.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

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A lifelong horse woman, learning how to listen to horses.

45 Comments

I just love this Crissi. Such timely reminders at this crazy time of year! I’m remembering back to a time last year when I realized I was moving so fast that the air felt like it was resisting my passage, requiring more energy to move through it. I found I could be efficient without creating this resistance I had to move through. There was a perfect pace that felt like I was in harmony with the air. Thank you for helping me remember that!

Thank you, my friend! Yes, I’ve been ruminating on how content I was after the accident (despite the pain). Going slowly was a big part of that and it’s now at the top of my list as far as being mindful. I love how you described the quality of the air – that’s exactly it!

It was such a wild realization – that I was insulting the air by how I moved through it! It felt like it just parted and was so soft when I slowed down. Makes me happy just thinking about it!

I had this experience too. When I came back from hospital after my last riding accident (5 broken vertebrae), I had very very limited movement and was in great pain, but I asked my husband to wheel me out on to the terrace because I wanted to taste the air… It was exquisite and I often think back to how satisfied I was during those weeks by such simple pleasures.

Yes -when the body is impaired, there is a freedom that comes with it. I wouldn’t ever wish being seriously injured on anyone, but for me personally it was a huge wake up call to the things I had been speeding by.

I experienced this slowing while on a group wagon ride. I had not done that for years. I began outriding on a friend’s Arab, but when he was injured ( we were using green Colts) his horses had to be returned home. I was offered a seat on the wagon of a lady with a team of Percheron. The hills and primitive roads on the ranch necessitated much slow and careful progress. Our awareness of the vegetation, the rocks, and the soil became the whole focus of the trip. When you have several minutes to study a solitary lily as the wagon rolled by , it becomes so much more than a flash of colour that goes by in seconds. When I took a turn on the lines, the communication became less hurried, more precise and far calmer. Thanks for the words

Patrick, I can feel that whole amazing experience. There’s a good story/poem in there. I don’t know why we let ourselves become so easily convinced that speed is good, but I have sure fallen into that trap. Here’s to the awareness of beauty through slowing down!

I find myself all to often being frantic, trying to move to fast and think way to fast and then I become anxious and nervous. The moment I breath and think, take this at the speed that is comfortable to me, the easier everything is. Taking that moment to remember that is so much easier said than done, but your article is a great way to remember. Go slow first, and if you don’t, listen to the animals around you and they will remind you.

Being.

Being.

Doing.

Doing.

Doing from Being.

Doing from Being —

A little poem for my SSL inspired by your lovely post and images and Robert Lax (minimalist poet and best friend of Thomas Merton.)

Do-be-do-be-do….I don’t remember where I first heard this in reference to mindfulness and busy-ness, but it has stuck with me 😊.

I always seem to accomplish more – not just with my horses, but with my dog and people around me – when I am slower. Great observations. And what is it with the pink?? Me too as you know – inspired by a pink pony!!!!!

True words and a good reminder to continue…the…slow…pace! My horse explained this to me (although it took me a while to understand). As a result, our partnership has flourished into one built on trust and acceptance that only moving slowly…and noticing…can accomplish. I thank her for that on a daily basis and am SO greatful that I listened!

Listening to horses will always get your farther along than not. One of my favorite sayings of Mark’s is: “When you listen to a horse you get an education. When you don’t you get experience.” Needless to say, it took a lot of experience for me before I was ready for the education! 😉

Hello I enjoy reading your posts. I too had a riding accident and broke my heel: 3 months in a wheel chair, then learning to walk all over again. It was a fantastic learning experience. I had already learnt the art both of mindfulness and meditation walking (I am a student of a buddhist teacher called Thich Nhat Hanh and had already done two years of aikido too) and as I am a performing artist I made a new show for very young children and their carers when in hospital.Living and learning in every moment, no matter where one is. I am a great fan of Mark Rashid’s book “Journey to Softness”. I only ride once a week at a riding centre (it took me a year to regain enough confidence to get on again), and I’m having to figure out how to continue my own journey to softness and understanding horses more, while with a riding instructor who is an endurance rider herself, and is rather “speedy” in her approach to both horse and rider! . It is challenging, but I feel the beautiful mare I ride is “on my side” so I’m hoping that slowly (!) my instructor can relax more! Anyway, thanks for these postings, they are a blessing.

Thank you so much, Fiona. I am a big fan of Buddhism and Thich Nhat Hanh as well – just hearing his voice is an experience in peace. I did a three-part series on how to recover (mostly mentally) from a riding accident. If you click on the words “horse accident” in this blog, it will take you to the third installment, and you can find the other two before it. My hope is that it would have some information that would be helpful for you. Happy to hear you have a mare who is on your side. Here’s to continuing the journey!

so true.

we talk about “in the moment” but we really whiz through them.
most people don’t wait worth a darn. makes it really hard to wait for your horse to ‘work through’ that new idea you are trying.

I didn’t duck fast enough once. Got lucky. I also got a whole new perspective on what’s going on in my head.
I am continually amazed at how well my horse does things, now that I am better at waiting for his ‘answer,’ his try.

thanks again

Thank you, Bob. I’ve spent the day catching my own speediness and slowing down. It’s so interesting that speed is easy (in the sense of mindlessness) and being present and slow is more challenging. What a world we live in. And thank goodness the horses allow themselves to live with us. Yes, waiting for a horse’s answer creates such better communication than forcing a horse to speed up. Thanks for your comments.

I was going to ask about mindfulness walking and suggest reading Thich Nhat Hanh, and then I read Fiona’s comment and your response and you’re both ahead of me. I blog about riding and training when you’re not a youngster anymore, and I suspect that much of your experience in recovering from a riding accident would be helpful to us older riders. Thanks for sharing your experiences Crissi!

Thank you so much for this inspiring an oh so true text. You truly met my thoughts as me too, I suffered a riding accident with a concussion, short time memory losses and a broken pelvis. During recovery, I experienced the wonder of slowing down. Unfortunately some time after recovery, one tents to fall back into “old habits”. But just as you said… Horses open your eyes, reflect your attitude and teach you to live and enjoy the moment. I’ll do my best to focus on this attitude whenever I am with my horses, to observe them, use my senses an listen to what they are teaching me. And if I am very lucky, I am in this “strolling mood” in everyday life too… 😉
Thank you so much for your reflections, which I always enjoy and looking forward to read!

I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts and your kind words, Jeannette. I’m sorry to hear about your own wreck; they are difficult to recover from.

Yes, those old habits do slip back. The good thing I am finding is that if I take myself back to my strolling days, I calm down. And then I go more slowly. 😊

Your thoughts come across with such feeling and warmth, I can feel your words very deep inside. I think they simply resonate with what I know is the best way to move thru my day. We are so fortunate to have that love for animals that helps to keep us sane and less caught up in the fast pace we are surrounded by. But your words are a wonderful reminder of the peace we will feel if we remember not to get caught up. thanks for sharing Crissi.

Thank you Crissi, yet again a timely reminder as I ‘rush’ through my final year of study. I must seem like a blurr to my horses at times. Miss you guys xxx

This may be your best post yet. The influence of our inner self with that of the horse’s is an unmistakable part of the mystery of why we are so attracted to each other. They are a mirror, for better or for worse, of who we are inside.

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