Slow equals fast

In all of the years that I barrel raced or cattle penned, it was all about speed. That’s the sport that I enjoyed the most, because it was it was judged based on my abilities and time, the clock. It wasn’t based on how pretty I looked in the ring or how effectively I was riding my horse. It was all based on the clock, except for a few instances if you were doing something wrong. But other than that it was rarely based on the judge’s opinion.

One of the things that certainly was a problem for me was that I was always really fast with my responses, fast with my hands. Fast! Fast! Fast! A few of my clinicians, and one in particular, would always say, “Slow down, easy, soft, easy, slow down.” And yet, at the same time, this was a race, so you had to go fast. That’s how I saw it anyway.

It was a few years later when I heard another colleague of mine say something that made it make sense. “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. Therefore slow equals fast.” When I heard it framed that way, it was like the heavens opened up. All of those years those clinicians would just shake their heads at me!

Now when I’m doing things with my horses, I am wondering how slow can I ask for something? How quietly can I ask? What’s the fastest response that I can get with the lightest of ask?

It’s not that I want an unresponsive horse. I want a less reactive horse. And until recently, I am not sure that I understood the difference between the two. I don’t have a sense of urgency. I want the response without the tension.

Several years ago, I took a few clinics with Terry Myers, from Ohio, with my barrel racing mare. We worked really hard on slowing me down in my asks. Getting quieter. Asking her to use her body more but without restricting her to move forward. Quite frankly I couldn’t believe that I was riding in a Western Pleasure type of clinic, and yet there I was.

Later at barrel racing events, I would chuckle. Many people who had watched me ride in the clinics would notice my horse and say “I see you brought your pleasure horse?” And then I would go run a run. ? 

But here was the unexpected thing that happened to me. For years, I had been stuck at running low 17s, I was fairly consistent at 17.3. AND then I cracked it and ran a 16.8! I could hardly believe my ears. I thought that the announcer made a mistake.

Slowing down didn’t make me slower. It made me faster. How is that?

Slow is fast because it’s smoother and she could be more confident with her response. If I wasn’t in reactive mode, she didn’t need to be in it either.