Counterintuitive #9: Speed Up or Slow Down?

Have you noticed that sometimes we tend to use our cues too fast (our hands or feet get too quick) when we need to be slow and smooth? And then we want to go too slow with our cues when we need to be quick – but still stay smooth!

What’s going on there?

This video is #9 in our counterintuitive series. It’s all about discovering how to be in the tempo and speed flow of the moment. And yes, what’s required is counterintuitive!


Have you noticed that sometimes we tend to use our cues too fast (our hands or feet get too quick) when we need to be slow and smooth? And then we want to go too slow with our cues when we need to be quick – but still stay smooth!

What’s going on there? Why do we want to naturally do the opposite of what we really need to do to stay in the correct tempo of the current maneuver?

First, when we’re excited, we naturally want to ‘do something’ to ‘take charge’. It’s right in front of us, right? It’s like, “C’mon, I’ve got this. Let’s go! I can handle something right in front of my nose!” But what’s really required is to wait or execute a slow, smooth sequence.

It’s counterintuitive to be methodical and easy when it’s all up close and personal!

Then, on the flip side of the coin, it feels odd to step on the gas when we need it… like speeding up for a fast circle in reining or staying even with a zippy cow running wide open across the pen. That’s because with distance and speed, the further we go and the faster the speed, it can feel like we’re on another planet! To regain a sense of control, we tend to pull back.

Here are some solutions to try on:

1. Know that when you’re in the correct rhythmic flow of a maneuver, no matter if it’s fast or slow by nature, YOU ideally want to feel slow on the inside. You’re in the moment and your goal is to execute the flow of the maneuver – not make something happen. Strive to slow yourself down within.

2. To stay slow within and use your cues accurately, talk to yourself. Write a script that describes what you need to do and then talk to yourself as you ride.

3. Executing increased tempos for faster maneuvers takes a while to develop because it requires practice and experience to be accurate and at ease with speed and distance. Be patient and kind to yourself as you learn.

To help yourself develop this skill, talk to yourself not only about what you need to do technically but also about the goal during each moment. For example, to stay with a cow traveling wide open across the pen, tell yourself, “Stop the cow.” When purpose-driven self-talk is woven into technique, things happen more naturally and effectively.

4. Instead of thinking ‘fast’ and ‘slow,’ think of the feel of the energy of each maneuver and the transitions between them. String the pieces together seamlessly like a ballerina would intertwine sequences in a dance. This ‘energy’ approach will help you discover the flow and rhythm of your ride.

There you have it. If you’ve had challenges with going too fast or too slow, leave a comment and let me know if any of these suggestions resonate with you.

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5 Comments on Counterintuitive #9: Speed Up or Slow Down?

  1. laurel laba on Sun, 13th Jun 2021 4:27 pm
  2. Thank you so much it’s a clear and concise explanation Barbra! I get frustrated and confused very often because sometimes my trainer tells me to slow down and sometimes he tells me to speed up and it never made sense to me up until now. After this video I can see the clear distinction of when I need to do which. A lightbulb moment!

  3. Lynda Savenkoff on Sun, 13th Jun 2021 5:58 pm
  4. Hey Barb! I had not thought about considering my energy during transitions & maneuvers. I tend to be too ask too quickly. Thanks for this strategy!

  5. Jill Rennie on Mon, 14th Jun 2021 8:41 am
  6. Thank you for this timely lesson. I just finished a reined/box class this weekend and our downfall was anticipation by my horse of the cow work and my reaction to control his energy in the rein work. I will try to develop your techniques to help slow down our energy.

  7. Carol-Anne Millar on Mon, 14th Jun 2021 1:47 pm
  8. Thank you for these thoughts Barb. Makes sense – never really thought it about in this way. I find a downward transition from trot to walk at the marker to be diffcult as I am asking for high energy in the trot, transitioning to a lower energy in the walk without stopping. I will work on managing my energy better.

  9. Pam on Mon, 14th Jun 2021 3:58 pm
  10. Hey Barb, I needed thus yesterday lol.. I had a good run going, cut a fast cow and got determined (high energy) not to loose the cow. Didn’t loose the cow but then didn’t bring my energy down the rest of my run. Not pretty. This really helps to clarify exactly where I should have come back to slow.

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