Growing up and into adulthood, I really didn’t care much about horses. I wasn’t raised around them. I saw them on TV shows and thought they were pretty impressive, but that was about the limit of my experience.
I got my first horse when I was 47 years old. And the only reason that happened is because my ex-wife wanted a horse. So, I did my “be a good husband” thing and got a horse so we could “do horses” together. Little did I know that all along my Father knew that he would use that equine to break thru to me at that specific time in my life in a powerful way.
At 47, I was spiritually stuck. I had left church and vowed never to go back again. It wasn’t that I left God or my faith in Him. I had just come to the point that church just wasn’t helping me to find God. The answers were shallow, the programs seemed to be busy work that had no real spiritual benefit. So much energy was expended essentially to “entertain” the attenders and try to keep them coming back. Lives were not truly being change, including mine.
For years I felt like I really needed to be “radical”, to figure out what it meant to “sell everything” to buy that field with the buried treasure in it (Matt 13:44). But, everyone kept telling me (including my ex-wife) that I needed to chill out, things were fine. After all, I was leading worship, teaching Sunday School, working on various committees, etc. How much more could I do? The problem wasn’t that I wanted to do “more”, I was convinced that I was on the wrong track and I needed to do something different.
So, I became a church drop out and had time on my hands. My ex-wife bought a horse and I got one too. Little did I know what I was in for. We went to see Cody at a boarding facility. He was all saddled up and ready for me to test out. I got on took a little ride and everything seemed fine. I bought him, took him home and turned him out in the pasture. The next day, I went out to ride and I couldn’t catch him. OK, I knew I was a novice but horses should want to get caught, shouldn’t they?
It took me 3 days to catch him. I had to put his food and water in a small fenced in area. When he got hungry enough he went in and I closed the gate. With no place to run he had to let me catch him and put on the halter. I tied him to a hitching post and started to throw on the saddle blanket and he exploded. He just about killed himself trying to break loose and get away from me. “What in the world is going on here?”, I asked. This doesn’t seem to be the same horse that I rode the other day. That sent me off to go find out more about horses.
I bought books and watched videos. There was a lot of advice to be purchased. The problem was, it just didn’t make any sense to me. I’m the kind of person who needs to understand the “why” of something before I work on the “how”. But, in this case I just couldn’t get the “whys”. In exasperation, I finally decided to try the “how” without really understanding the “why”. I chose one particular trainer’s book and started on Step 1 – ground work. This takes place in something called a round pen; a set of stock panels arranged in a circle about 40′ in diameter.
Here’s the first lesson: Put your horse in a round pen. Don’t put anything on him, don’t touch him, just make him move. Send him around in a circle while you stand in the center. You make noise, slap a rope on your side, hit the ground with a stick, anything that will make him move without touching him. Then you just relax and watch him do circles. He can run or walk, it doesn’t matter. Just make him move his feet. After a bit, step toward the front of him to make him stop and then send him the opposite direction. Move back to the center and just watch. Do that for about 30 minutes and then leave. Repeat the next day and the next for about a week.
Does that make sense to you? It sure didn’t to me. But, I had a horse I couldn’t ride and I couldn’t think of a better alternative, so I did it. Here’s what happened. Day 1, Cody was freaked out. He ran around the pen acting like he was going to get killed. Day 2, he started out the same way but after a few minutes the run slowed down to a trot. Day 3, he briefly ran then trotted. Then he walked. Interesting. About Day 5, he started off by walking looking almost downright calm. Finally, he stopped and turned and looked at me. It was first time he had ever done that. Up until then, he didn’t want to look at me; he just wanted to get away from me. The book told me this would happen, I just had a hard time believing it. But, by golly there he was standing there looking calm and looking at me. I walked up to him and petted him and he actually seemed to be OK with it.
So, what happened? Years later I understand exactly what happened. I went on to training horses even starting new horses. Yep, I get it now. But, I didn’t understand it at the time. What I did understand is that I did what the trainer told me to do and it worked. As I progressed, I gained more and more understanding but I never would have gotten far if I hadn’t simply practiced the advice of the trainer without insisting on understanding it first.
Here’s the primary lesson I learned at that time. Jesus actually taught this lesson very clearly but in all my years of church I had never learned this truth:
You only understand the truth of a thing after you start practicing it.
Jesus tells us that if we hold to (practice) his teachings THEN we would know the truth and it would free us (John 8:31,32). In other words, he says “Trust me and do what I say. Then, you’ll get it.” (not what “Christians or church people tell you, but what I say). When I saw that work with a horse and Father revealed to me that it works that way with Him as well, then I set out to do just that. I committed to focusing on Jesus’ teachings and practicing them, even if I didn’t understand it. That changed everything for me.
It took a horse for me to “get it”. I hadn’t really cared for or thought about horses all that much, but that’s what God used to reach me with a vital spiritual lesson. Go figure 🙂 .