Horse Time

The holidays are upon us. And as much as I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and the big futurities that define this time of year, there is one thing I could definitely do without, and that is the pace.

Our world already moves at a speed that is frighteningly fast. People are hurried and harried as they hustle and bustle to work and meetings and functions and lessons and games and whatever else fills the day. Recently, I was reading about the increase in the number of people who have been killed driving around cross arms and trying to beat a train across the tracks. Are we really too busy that we don’t have time to stop for a train? If so, I guess stopping to smell the roses is really out of the question. 

It all seems to get worse around the holidays. Take the normal, already overscheduled day and add in the extra expectations of buying and wrapping presents, sending out Christmas cards, grocery shopping for special holiday meals and then preparing them for friends and family, company parties, get-togethers and more. It’s no wonder patience run thin and tempers get short as the year comes to a close.

There are times I just want to stop and scream, “Slow down!” Not to the aggressive driver on the freeway – although that’s not a bad idea – but to someone like the father who was too impatient to wait at a fast-food counter for his three young sons to decide on lunch. He stormed outside, cussing loudly about their indecisiveness, while they followed meekly behind. I watched that drama unfold in the parking lot in the time it took me to go through the drive-through line. He was just too busy to wait.

Maybe everyone just needs to get a horse. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from horses, it’s that they will make you wait. Try to hurry and you’ll spend more time fixing what went wrong. Jimmy Bankston has written about that phenomenon a few times in his “Cornbread Thinks…” column. If you missed it, you can find Cornbread’s column online at

No, there isn’t a lot of room for “hurry” when it comes to horses. That is one of their best gifts – the gift of time. Have you ever been late for a lesson? You rush to get to the barn on time, only to have all of the anxiety fall away when you saddle up and step on. Once in the saddle, time ceases to matter. A two and one-half minute cutting run can feel like an eternity; a fence run can be gone in the blink of an eye.

If you really want to slow down and lose track of time, go sit in a stall. Don’t take your cell phone or your iPad or your Kindle. Just go sit. Focus on the horse. Not the futurity prospect or the prospective sale horse or the potential broodmare. Just the horse. No agenda. No schedule. No goals. Just horse time.

Pretty soon you’ll start to notice little things, like the shine of a healthy haircoat rippling over toned muscles. Or the slight curve of an eyelash, as a soft, brown eye turns in your direction. And the warm puff of moist air, snuffed out of an inquisitive nostril as a velvety muzzle comes near to say, “Hello.”

How long were you there? Five minutes? An hour? Do you know? Better yet, do you care? Probably not. Because horse time seems to strip away all the extraneous rubble in our lives, leaving only what’s really important. Horses have a way of straightening out priorities that would put the best counselor to shame. Maybe that’s why so many people call horses their “therapy.”

Within the pages of this issue, you’ll find a story about a phenomenal woman who fought a courageous battle against Lyme disease. Horses were her therapy, not physically, as the disease was too debilitating, but emotionally, as she focused on getting herself healthy and back in the saddle. After eight long years, she’s done it, and as you read this, Sherry Cagan will have competed at the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity for the first time in many years. I talked to her in the weeks leading up to the Futurity. She was elated, and her voice filled with emotion as she described stepping back in the saddle aboard a cutting horse for the first time since getting sick. She got her horse time.

This holiday season, whether you’re busy at one of the big futurities or trying to get everything done at home, I hope you get the chance to slow down. I hope you get your horse time.