Tienes Siempre Mañana

The Spanish expression “you always have tomorrow” (“tienes siempre mañana”) is one that often bantered around in buckaroo circles, but is it really understood?  I often hear people say “it takes as long as it takes” as a substitute, but does it really?

The thing about training horses is that there is no precise science to it, it is as much an art as a science, and perhaps even moreover a communication.  People work on time schedules, horses don’t – send your horse to a trainer and they will charge you by the month (or 30-day cycle).  After buying a horse or perhaps when trying to sell one the owner might say “Well, I sent that one off to Billy Bob’s for 90 days of training”.

The only time that really matters to a horse is the time you spend annoying it, when you keep pulling on it or won’t let up asking for something.  Horses live for peace, in their natural state, they eat, drink, procreate and poop.  In a sense they appear quite Dionysian, preferring the laissez faire pleasures of life, and having nothing to prove.  They don’t care about winning races, just escaping predators.

When people are trying to get something done with a horse, they usually have two goals in mind, a targeted behavioural response, and a time frame.  The horse on the other hand has only one goal, maintaining homeostasis (the status quo).  Which is precisely why pressure and release works so well – pressure is enough to (in some manner) drive or impel the horse and release signifies a correct response.

If the pressure is insufficient, the horse will not respond, if it is too much the horse will become nervous, anxious, and possibly explosive.  A good horseman is very perceptive, as perceptive as the horse himself.  A good horseman will know when to hold a feel and when to release, not too much pressure and neither late nor early with the release.  A less skilled horseman will make more errors in judgement, mostly using the wrong amount of pressure and releasing at the wrong time.

For the skilled horseman, if he doesn’t get something done today, because of time constraints or perhaps he or the horse was “away with the fairies”, he’ll try again another day.  For the less skilled horseman tienes siempre manana can be an excuse for being unable to complete a task, not timing something correctly or using an inappropriate amount of pressure or simply just experimenting without sufficient guidance or research.

Just remember while it may be true that “you always have tomorrow”, it is equally true that “tomorrow never comes”.  So, if, like me, you are still learning and don’t consider yourself a master-horseman, try to spend more time contemplating your own actions, and ask yourself, did I use too much pressure?  Did I hold too long?  Did I release too early?

Remember too, there are many ways to cue a horse – think about a stop, conventionally people may do one of many things, pull the horse to a stop, ask verbally, sit back on their pockets, stop riding, use spurs and so on.  Not one of these is “the right way” or excludes the other possibilities from working and not all horses will understand every one of those cues, they will recognize the ones that led to peace in that moment.