Building a Change One Tiny Step at a Time

Recently my husband and I decided it was time to get rid of the burn pile. We have a small excavation project coming up that requires we finally burn the darn thing. The burn pile consisted mainly of small cherry trees we had to remove when we decided to bring the horses home. With all the rain we’ve had the pile of tree limbs, branches, and leaves were quite wet. But the task needed to be taken care of, so one sunny morning we got out there.

The whole pile burning experience was really quite a revelation. And, since I can relate pretty much everything in life to something horse training related 🙂 it should come as no surprise that I found myself thinking about what an amazing metaphor for ‘taking the time it takes’ the experience was.

I mentioned that the pile of stuff was really wet. So, that meant it was not at all inclined to ignite. Even pouring on lighter fluid only results in a quick flash of flames but was no real resolution to the problem. With some lighter fluid and some bits of paper I got a tiny little fire going. I found that if I walked away at all the tenuous little flame would fade out. The only way to keep it going was to stand there and feed it little teeny twigs continuously. Not too many or it would be overwhelmed, not to few or it would burn out.

We had this HUGE pile and I honestly was having trouble imagining it burning that day at all. But, having nothing else to do that day any way, I just stood there and kept feeding. My husband and I speculated about how long this would take. Would it even burn at all or would it just be days of this one twig at a time business? A couple hours into it I’d managed to burn a small dent into the pile but there was still So MUCH remaining. Come ON! You’re kidding, right? We decided that since we had all day we’d just keep chipping away.

I don’t even know when it happened. I’d resigned myself to being there for days. But, miraculously somehow the larger branches started to burn and after that it was a nice steady fire. By the end of the day what had been a giant pile of brush and branches was a small pile of ash. How amazing was that! In fact, two days later, even with some more rain the ash was still hot and when I moved it around a bit a piece of wood that still remaining ignited.

Heather and Pippen

Heather and Pippen

I guess it shouldn’t be too hard to see where I’m going with this? I’m often asked how it is I can be so patient. But, in reality there isn’t any patience involved. Harry Whitney says it is about Faith. Faith that if you keep at it, putting one foot in front of the other, chipping away, you will make it.

I’m surrounded by these little miracles of ignition. The story that comes immediately to mind is that of Heather and Pippen. Heather started with me a year or so ago as a person who’d ridden a bit 20 years prior but was now 40-something and starting a young horse. When I joined the scene she’d gotten on Pippen but wasn’t really riding him. And there was quite a bit of anxiety about the fact that when Pippen became anxious it became dangerous for her. So we did a lot of ground work with Pippen and for Heather lots of developing of mechanical skills for rope work and riding.

Last week all the ‘twig work’ we’d been doing ignited. 🙂 Due to weather constraints Heather had not worked much with Pippen the days prior to our lesson. When she got on him she started to feel tension build in him. It was clear that soon he was going to have a melt down. In the past, Heather might have ‘seized up’ due to anxiety about the impending melt-down. On this day, everything changed because instead of seizing up, she kept riding. She lead him out of his anxiety, deflected the tension, and then in a matter of a minute went from near explosion to completely relaxed and focused.

You GO Heather! Houston We Have Ignition!

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