The Big Wait

Jan 24, 2023 | A Cowboy in Chinese Camp

As exciting, courageous, honorable, fast and furious and even romantic the working cowboy has been portrayed, truth be known, the majority of this work is really just a “Waiting Game”.

Oh sure, there’s moments in which it’s all out on the line, and you and your Pony will have to show some color. Things can happen fast and get Western in a hurry. This work’s not for the fragile or faint of heart. But those are only “Moments” –not the lasting effect on a full day doing this type of work.

Again, truth be known, there’s a lot of time just waiting around for the cattle, the environment you’re in or the day itself to decide what’s next. If you’re riding a Pony who seldom has all four hoofs on the ground at one time, you’re in for a long day. Too often folks believe they must have their horses solid on cattle before they can help on a neighbor’s ranch or even go to the local sorting. The best thing you could be working on with your horse is being able to stand still, “Waiting” on your next request.

Ranch work can be a series of Mini Storms going on around you and your horse. A horse that’s not “Waiting” on its rider can get caught up in all of them. No rancher I know wants cowboys showing up riding horses that can’t settle and in return keep the livestock from settling. That wastes calories on a commodity that’s value is measured in pounds. It might also keep everyone from eating lunch on time if your jigging, prancing and blowing Pony–just spooked a few calves through the fence!

It’s contagious, this “Wait” thing. Notice the pics I added with this post–no one’s in a rush. There’s lots of hoofs on the ground, cowboys & cowgirls sitting on their pockets. For our equine partners, a “Waiting” horse is a listening horse and possibly as close as we may ever come to having their undivided attention.

So, how should we go about teaching a horse to “Wait”? First and foremost, inventory the teacher: you! We live in a society where “Waiting” for just about anything these days is considered a hardship. What’s your own threshold when it comes to “Waiting”? Is your world centered around the quick and easy? There’s no greater facilitator to this sad phenomenon than the cell phone. For too many folks, these plastic-coated boxes of circuitry have become a source of instant gratification and can become a false sense of higher intelligence, seldom leaving their grip for more than 60 seconds! How about the “Smart TV”. Another device that steals from our patience. Deciding, based on yesterday’s viewing, what you’ll watch today.

“Texting” might be the single worst thing we’re doing in connection with our ability to “Wait”. It’s fine for “grab some milk” or “be home in 10”. But if this has become a person’s primary source of communication, they’ve allowed yet another part of their own “slow down” to be stolen. We can now just “Like or Love” a text, without having to slow down long enough to answer it back. Good Lord! (Again, I’ve added quite a few pics with this post.) Other than using the camera function, you won’t spot many cell phones out of the saddle bags in any of them.

I hope this short essay helps us to consider our own ability to “Wait” before expecting it from our horses, who’s in many ways reflect us! A great horseman once said: “It’s impossible to put something into a horse you, yourself, don’t possess.”