By Mary McCashin

This past weekend (June 1-4) I had the pleasure of attending the annual Houlihan Colt Starting, a four-day colt starting clinic held at Buck Brannaman’s ranch in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Those four days taught me a tremendous amount, not only about the horse, but about myself.

Over and over you would hear Buck say, “You’re doing too much.” Not only did this apply to riders needing to realize when to do less sooner for their colts, but I found that it was applying to my life as well.

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More often than not I find myself running nonstop – juggling several jobs, a social life, the gym, and a boyfriend will make you do that. I love all of it, but after four days of submerging myself mentally into something I love it really struck me. “You need to do less, sooner.”

I know that I am not the only person who constantly finds themselves sacrificing the things they love in order to make everything fit into a day. Whether that’s grabbing fast food instead of feeding your body, passing up riding your horse so you can make an appointment, or even going to the extreme of selling a horse because you don’t have time.

“Do less, sooner.”

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I left the weekend with goals in mind for both myself and my horse. I am in no hurry to achieve any one thing with my horse in a certain time frame. I feel no need to prove that I can have a bridle horse in 18 months, or that we’ll be perfecting side passes in 3 months. Because as Buck says, “With the horse I always consider that if I do too much in too little time and I’m not patient, he’s going shut down and I won’t get anything done.”

So with that, I’m left to once again reassess my priorities.

  1. Always make sure I have time for my horse. It’s as important to him as it is to me. Even if it’s only a 10-15 minute ride, that’s better than no progress at all.
  1. Make sure I’m nourishing my body and feeding myself in such a way that my body can perform at its. This means getting back on track with my weekly cheat meal and sticking to being Paleo the rest of the week.
  1. To help encourage my students and allow them to also realize, there’s no rush. You don’t need to be doing XYZ in a certain time frame if you’re not ready. You have to trust the process and take comfort in the small steps of progress.
  1. There’s no shame in doing less, more often you’ll get more out of it.

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It was an exceptional weekend filled with friends, so much information, and reassurance. So often we feel guilty for not devoting 10+ hours to riding, the gym, etc. However, we can’t do it all and every individual not only has to figure out where their passions lie, but what their priorities are as well.

I know people that have reduced the number of clients they have so they can spend more time with their young daughter, realizing that being a present mother is more important.

I know clients that have decided they need to work on their sitting trot for quite a while before they consider learning to canter again. It took them almost eating dirt to realize you can’t skip steps.

I myself have kicked my two-year-old appendix out to pasture in hopes of healing a soft tissue injury. It might work, it might not, but there’s no rush. She doesn’t have to be started by a certain age.

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So do less, sooner.