You. Can't. Take. The Waves. Personally.

 “Hey, Susan! Are you ready to ride?” I walk into the big outdoor arena and Susan is mounted on her horse Elm, waiting for her lesson to begin. She picks up her reins and gently cues Elm to walk forward. He perks up his cute, furry brown ears that are tipped with black and begins to walk forward.

Elm is an older thoroughbred, and by now he is pretty set in his ways. By nature, many thoroughbred horses tend to be very sensitive, even to the point of being quick to run at the slightest shift in the wind. It’s bred into their DNA. That’s why they make great race horses.

Susan loves to ride Elm because of his thoroughbred nature. It doesn’t take much effort to get him to move forward. Today Elm feels especially energetic. I ask Susan to trot Elm over the red and white cross pole (a jump). They approach the cross pole and jump very nicely, but after the jump Elm gets excited and begins to pick up speed. I tell Susan to make a circle to slow him down. She circles, and eventually he slows down. We continue to jump, and he stays “excited” (meaning keyed up and ready for action!!! Woohoo!!!) for the rest of the lesson.

After the lesson, Susan looks slightly defeated. “What’s wrong?” I ask. Susan replies, “I did awful today. Did you see how crazy he got after we started jumping? I’m a terrible rider. I’ll never be any good.” I am surprised Susan feels this way because I thought she handled him very well. “Susan, I think you did great today. You’re upset because Elm got excited when we began jumping. Please don’t forget that Elm is a thoroughbred. His hotness is not a reflection of your riding ability. It’s a reflection of him. It’s in his nature.”

Last summer, I was standing in the shallow waters up to my waist while squeezing the sand between my toes on a dreamy beach in Barbados. The breeze was strong and salty. What an amazing day. Small waves were splashing against me in rhythm with the current as I was staring into the horizon. All of a sudden, a larger, more forceful wave came out of nowhere and knocked me flat.

Now, as I was underwater, complete with saltwater in my mouth and sand in my hair, a thought occurred to me. After a few attempts at getting back on my feet and falling back down, I realized something profound. Some waves are gentle, some are big and knock you over. But waves will be waves. It doesn’t matter how nice of a person you are. You can’t take the waves personally.

It’s time to be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. So, next time someone says something hurtful and insensitive to you, next time someone doesn’t say hello, next time someone cuts you off while driving, next time someone does something really yucky and beyond awful to you, love yourself. Remember that maybe this isn’t about you at all. Maybe whatever happened is a reflection of the other person and really has very little to do with you.

You. Can’t. Take. The. Waves. Personally.

Dana Mase is the founder and executive director of Ride Kind Therapeutic Riding, and equestrian director for The Ranch at Bethel, a therapeutic boarding school for girls. Dana’s column, called “Horse Time,” teaches inspirational life lessons learned from working with horses and people.“ Horse Time” is featured in numerous worldwide publications. Dana can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 845-356-1464.