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Jenn Zeller photo.

Learning to be in the moment

The other day I was handling a green (inexperienced) horse. I started her when she was 2, and have ridden her on and off a bit here and there since then. She probably has 45 rides in her 8 years of life. So, I glossed over the fact that she stood there and let me brush her, and missed all the signs that she wasn't ready for me to saddle her.

Despite her moving around, I managed to get her saddled, but she reached around to try and bite me more than once in the process. I got her comfortable, helped her move her feet and decided it was time to unsaddle her and start again. Clearly, I'd missed something.

I started again. Brushed her. Put the pad on her back. Repeat of the first time — moving, biting, moving, general restlessness. And ... I started again. This time she stayed still until I went to pull the cinch tight. Then she walked off. As I helped her get round and get her feet stopped, the saddle plopped off her right side. She, of course, was unbothered. So, I picked it up, cleaned it up, reset and decided that I had to sloooooowwwww my roll.

This time I paid more attention to what she was telling me. I put the pad on her. Took the pad off. Led her to a new location. Placed the pad on her back. Rubbed her heart girth and rubbed on her. A lot. Rubs that meant, stay here, it's all going to be just fine.

She wasn't bothered by anything I was doing, per say, it was my presentation.

Up went the saddle. Down went the cinches. I rubbed her belly all the way across as I went to pick up the cinch and pull it tight. I got it tight enough to hold the saddle should she feel the need to move her feet.

She didn't.

She didn't try to bite me either.

After fastening the back cinch, I pulled the front cinch one a notch tighter, and walked her off. Slowing down helped. Slowing down allowed me to be more aware, more in tune and pay more attention to my horse.

Often I'll think "Well, I've been on my horse (or I've done xxxx before)," so I go at it thinking about what was in the past, instead of being in the present. Instead of taking the horse or situation or person from where they are that day, where they are that moment.

I was in such a rush to get her saddled and check her out because I wanted to ride her that I missed all the things she was telling me about not being ready.

I think that slowing down in life is a lesson that we can all learn. We should learn to appreciate where we are that moment. We shouldn't dwell on what happened yesterday, because the horse is past it, and not think about where we had the horse before or what we've done with the horse before. We shouldn't dwell on what we think is going to happen, because that hasn't happened yet and may not happen; that just makes a person anxious and cranky,

We need to just practice being.

Be in the moment.

Be aware and adjust our timing and our goals and our approach, as need be.

That's the lesson I learned from my horse tonight.

What lessons have you learned from your horses?

Editor's note: Zeller is a South Dakota cattle rancher who raises Angus, Brangus and Quarter Horses with her husband and his family. Contact her at