Cattle experiences Leadership and Culture Life is the Masterclass

Hurry Up and Wait – The cattle became my teachers

 

Hurry Up and Wait is something we used to say when I was in the US Air Force.  At that time the phrase had a specific meaning for me.  It wasn’t a positive thing.  It was a way to complain.  The feeling was that we were expected to hurry, hurry, hurry, but then no, wait!  Suffice it to say my attitude and outlook on life was different than it is today.  I was looking for reasons to complain versus reasons to celebrate.
Hurry Up and Wait has come to me recently, again, but with a completely different resonance.  I’d like to share a story.

I was preparing to move the cattle to a new pasture by setting up gates in my vehicle, with the plan to tack up and bring my horse back to get them moved.  At this point my horses and I had been working alone with the cattle for about 6 weeks and the herd was getting comfortable with us on a different level.  Prior to this experience, the cattle were comfortable with me when I was on my horse, but definitely not comfortable with me if I came along on foot.  They would scatter.  Well, that has evidently changed.  Here’s how it unfolded.
As I was setting up gates the cows were calling and moving to the gate that would give them access to the new pasture they’d be rotating to.  An idea began to take shape in my mind.  I decided to open the gate and begin to allow them to enter, then come back on my horse.  I made the assumption that when I drove down to the gate and stepped out of my vehicle on foot they’d scatter or at least move away, as they’ve done in the past.  Well, that didn’t happen.  The events that followed required me to operate from feel and instinct with no time to analyze or really think.  I stepped out of my vehicle and went to open the gate.  The cattle stayed put, calling and ready to move through the gate.  Hmmm.  I went with it.  I opened the gate and stepped out of the way, behind the gate so as to remove my “blow horns” as Linda Parelli describes, and keep my energy from blocking or driving them.  I was sure to have a soft energy and a smile. Through the gate they came.  This blew my mind.  It began to look like this would be an easy move.  Ha! There was a lesson about to come for me.
A group of calves got blocked; they are usually more sensitive and were not able to be confident coming through with me standing there.  So at this point, a few calves were apart from the main herd and I now really wanted to accomplish the move on foot; it had become a possibility and I wanted to figure this out.  I quickly moved through the gate back to my vehicle and went behind my vehicle facing away from the calves and leaving the gate opening for them in hopes they’d be drawn to their Mamas strongly enough to go through.
Here’s where it began to get interesting.  The calves were still a bit stuck.  I saw the main herd start to come back toward me and the gate like a big wave.  Have you ever seen a herd when they begin moving as one?  It’s really beautiful and powerful.  Like a wave.
Remember, I was now committed to the idea that I could move the herd on foot on this day and when I saw the herd coming back toward the gate, I recognized that might not happen.  So I started acting quickly, but with a focus on remaining thoughtful and emotionally fit.  There were definitely safety concerns. with me on foot and over 100 livestock coming toward me with zeal.  I stepped into the gate opening and brought my energy up, lifting my hand…all blow horns as strong as I could muster.  They stopped; wow.  “But go on, Cryshtal, no time to waste, they are ready to move”.  The calves were still behind me, separated from their Mamas.  If I couldn’t get them through all together, they’d go back into the old pasture and I’d have to wait until another time for them to be ready and willing to move again.  I started walking to the new pasture, toward the next gate opening, they turned and followed me.
At this point, I consciously realized I was on foot in a large open space with a herd of more than 100 livestock following me.  I looked around to check fences I might run to and climb should I find myself in trouble. I then looked behind me and one of the Black Bulls was trotting toward me; okay.  The thoughts and emotions that came up for me in that moment are indescribable.  The bull had the expression of a puppy dog, ready to follow.  Logically, I got that he wasn’t coming AT ME or AFTER ME, but OMG!  This huge bull was trotting toward me and I was on foot.  The next thought that came to me was GO!  Well, I also saw some humor in it, seeing him with his ears flopping, trotting to me.  I thought to myself, “only you would get yourself into this situation, Cryshtal”.  I began to run, laughing, to the next gate opening; prepared to get on or behind the gate and let them go through.  I stepped to the side, the herd stopped and looked at me.  It was the same look our horses get when they begin asking questions.  So I took a deep breath, realizing they were with me, but not overexcited, and walked with purpose on through and toward the next gate.
To ensure they’d stay in the new pasture, I was looking for them to begin to scatter and start eating.  They were still concentrated on me, so I kept walking forward.  They kept following.
Some eventually began moving out of the herd and began eating.
I kept walking since many were still following and headed toward the last gate we’d go through where grass was really tall, knowing they’d be happy to start eating when they got to this area.

Here’s the Wait part of this Hurry Up and Wait experience.  A handful of cows who are very sensitive ended up separated as the more confident cows had gone through this last gate.  I was standing next to the gate opening, waiting for them to go through.  I recognized they wanted to go through, but couldn’t.  They stood there, doing approach and retreat, but couldn’t make it.  I softened my energy, experimenting with what it would take to help them be comfortable.  And I waited.
Did I mention?  Waiting is such a beautiful challenge for me; it doesn’t come natural.
I looked at my watch so I could time how long it actually took, knowing it would feel like an eternity keeping my feet (and mind) still 🙂
I recognized the cows wouldn’t be able to come through with me that close to the opening, no matter how soft my energy was, so I gently turned and walked further away, remaining soft and keeping a gentle smile on my face…breathing out consciously; moving slow without being sneaky.
I moved away until I noticed them get a bit “unstuck” then stopped; and waited.  I didn’t need to do anything but ALLOW them to find comfort and confidence to go through the gate to their herd, where they wanted to be.  Eventually, they went  through and the entire herd was happily grazing.  I could go back to my car and close the gate to the old pasture.
I took a moment to take in the beautiful surroundings.
I was on foot, alone, standing on the ground, connected to the earth and all the surroundings of mother nature; the tall grasses, the cattle, the birds singing, the breeze.  Nothing to do but give gratitude in that moment.
I took the long walk back to my vehicle, in awe at the experience I’d just had, contemplating the life lessons and realizing the entertainment someone might have gotten if they had been watching.

The one thing I’ve been reflecting on most is a new way to look at Hurry Up and Wait.  I realized the concept is actually a wonderful, simple, thought.  There are moments when I’ll need to Hurry Up and there are moments when I’ll need to Wait.  The key is having the confidence in myself, the feel, and the emotional fitness to recognize what each moment calls for and be able to honor that need.  This 20 minute experience on that day showed me I can trust myself and taught me a bit more about the concept that was introduced to me so many years ago, in the Air Force.  Seems like a lifetime has passed and it doesn’t feel like it could’ve been me; that person who was looking for ways to complain.  But it was.  I’ve grown, I’ve changed.  This is the juicy part.  There is no getting THERE; I am already HERE.  “Life is Perfect”.  Here’s to your journey.

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