Baby Steps

04 Dec

Over the past year, I’ve been teaching my horse, Hawk, some tricks. He loves it, which is weird, because he’s really not that social a horse, doesn’t like people in general, and while he likes me best of all, I’m not sure that’s saying much. Also, it took me literally the first three years of his life to halter break him, something most foals learn in a couple weeks. But learning tricks? He picked it up so fast, and he’s so much more ‘interactive’ than he’s ever been before. I still can’t catch him in the pasture, but you know, baby steps.

When you’re training a horse, it’s always better to work in baby steps. Horses, especially young horses, don’t have a long attention span. If you can work with them for 10 or 15 minutes, make a solid improvement on whatever skill you’re working on, and end on a good note, you are way ahead of where you’d be if you spent an hour fighting with them for perfection.  And this is true whether your horse is learning to bow and spanish walk, to bend on the circle under saddle, or just to pick up their feet. A little bit every day is always, always the best way to train a horse. Consistency is key.

I’m teaching myself to be a writer. Luckily, I have a little help. I’ve taken a revision course, I’ve read books, and every day there are informative links posted on Twitter that I find so valuable. I’m trying to approach it the same way that I do teaching Hawk a new trick, one baby step at a time. Yeah, I have big goals, but I can’t expect to accomplish them today. Just like I can’t expect Hawk to be able to perform a spanish walk in a day, I can’t expect to start making a living at writing overnight.

The first step in teaching the spanish walk was to get Hawk to pick up his foot from a tap to his leg. That was it, and that was a great accomplishment for that day!  In the same way, each little milestone I achieve is a step towards those big writing goals. Finishing a first draft. A completed revision – until I learn something new to incorporate that is!  My first rejection letter. (Yes, I admit to being far more excited than I was disappointed when the form rejection arrived from my first ever submission – I felt like a real writer!)

Horses also don’t do well with too much focus on one thing. They need variety in a training session. In harness, Hawk might be working on lengthing his trot, then maintaining the correct bend on a circle, then practicing taking a marathon obstacle at speed, and through it all working on increasing his condition and fitness. This time of year, when there’s snow on the ground and we don’t drive but instead learn tricks for fun, I’m not going to only work on the spanish walk until neither one of us thinks it’s fun anymore. Instead, he works on all the tricks, introducing new ones, and refining old ones.

I submitted a partial manuscript last week. I’m really, really, really hoping they ask for the full manuscript, that’s my goal. Might happen, might not. But in the meantime, I’m also working on a new rough draft, getting ready to start a revision of my Nanowrimo story, and reading yet another book on craft. I’m keeping it interesting, always moving forward, just like when I lay out a training session for Hawk.

Hawk’s spanish walk will be perfect one day, but it probably won’t be today. I will have a book published, and though I really hope it’s this one, it might not be. But both Hawk and I will be learning and improving, one baby step closer to the goal.

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Posted by on December 4, 2010 in horses, writing


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