Red and Baby waiting at the gate

These days when I pull into the pasture, my two old sweeties, and at least one or two of their pals, are waiting at the gate for me.

It’s been this way for at least a year. I set out the feed pans, and then open the gate. Bud and Pepper march out, and amazingly, their friends don’t.

They’ve learned that they get fed behind the fence. There’s no pushing to break out.

Of course, I stay alert.

We are talking about horses after all.

There was a time when I wouldn’t even think of taking our horses out of the pasture without a halter and lead rope. And the same goes for putting them back in.

Now they come out on their own and when they’re finished eating, I casually loop a lead rope around their neck and walk them through the gate. They could slip out of it in a heartbeat if they chose to.

Usually they don’t.

Bud has learned to duck his head just so and slide out of the rope, and every now and then he tries it out.

Just to keep me on my toes.

But even if he got “free,” he’d only go back to nibbling bits of grain in the back of the car or on the ground. His days of making a wild dash to freedom are long gone!

Pepper will sometimes put herself in, without any lead rope. I guess there are days when she is just ready to be done.

Yesterday when I was going through this well-established routine, I thought back to my first days of doing the noon feeding alone. I was nervous and sure all the horses in the pasture would break out, or I’d my foot stomped on, or worse, get trampled by stampeding horses. I’d fumble with the halter and rope, my fingers just not doing what I needed them to do.

And the locks on the gate were always hard. Again, I’d fumble and struggle, and feel like a complete fool. Not one aspect of this was easy when I started.

But time and repetition created competence.

At least my level of competence.

I now feel comfortable and certain of my actions. I can predict what is likely to happen. I know how to avert most disasters in the making.

This past weekend I watched my fifteen-month-old grandson repeat actions over and over. He was focused and intent, and learning. It was work for him. He’d grunt and struggle to pull himself onto a chair. Then he’d do it again. And again.

And I thought that’s how I must have looked in those early days of handling the horses on my own.

Every skill I’ve ever mastered has come from repetition.
Cooking, singing, playing the guitar, using the computer, skiing, doing mosaic, writing, gardening – all required practice and repetition.


Sometimes I forget about this process and want to be good at something right away. I lose patience with myself and set my expectations for perfection entirely too high. Then through one “learning opportunity” or another, I’m invited once again to be a beginner.

Practice does make perfect.