Join Together

It has been a few days since I have blogged, mainly because I have not been feeling very well. Between an abscess tooth and coming down with a cold I haven’t felt like doing much. Looking at a computer screen for a long period of time and actually having to think very much has not been on my list of things to do. Even so, I have ridden Sorry bareback three times in the last five days. Riding her was actually more for my therapy than any training goal, which is why I didn’t even saddle her. She was out in the pasture grazing with the herd where I walked up to scratch her for a while. I listened to her chew the dried blades of grass before I put the halter on. Then I rode her casually around the other eight horses.

It felt so good to have her body moving in such a relaxed manner beneath me. I would like to think her nice relaxation and rhythm was due to the previous work we have been doing together. But the truth is, you just never know for sure. I try not to take too much credit for how great a horse is acting, because about the time I do they do something to humble me. Anyway she felt good three days in a row, and I am thankful I was a part of it with her.

At first I didn’t really care where we went. I just needed to be on my horse being a part of her. There is no better way to feel that connection than riding bareback without a super strong agenda. I felt our spines meeting as if they were intertwined in a more powerful way than when riding in the saddle. It wasn’t long and I forgot about how rotten I was feeling. A horse can do that for you. There is something about them which can heal and touch your inside. Then the outside world somehow looks better.

I began to amaze at how clearly I could sense when she was going to move, which direction, and even what foot she was going to step with first. I could feel when she initiated a movement with her hindquarters. I could feel when she raised her back and the base of her neck. When I am in training mode, I focus hard to feel for these things and it sometimes seems difficult. As I thought about this I realized I must be trying too hard. Because this time I really wasn’t trying, it just came naturally as if I was joining her in what she was already about to do.

This gave me the next idea to play around with. Could she join me in what I was about to do with only a suggestive hint of a cue? In other words; how little could I do before she felt it and responded appropriately? I have always talked about how sensitive this horse is. Now she is giving me a new picture about just how sensitive she is. I knew it was there all along. Perhaps before this I wasn’t in a place where I could really sense it in the meaningful way or depth that I was able to these past few days. Then to be able to use it more effectively, that was just icing on the cake.

As I rode from one poop pile to another, or around a grazing horse, I experimented with keeping Sorry perfectly between my legs. It almost surprised me that all I had to do to keep her on the perfect straight line, or circle whichever I had in mind was very slightly adjust my seat and leg position. And I do mean slight. Maybe it was what we would call a soft whisper. A very small adjustment in the weight of my seat bones and my pant leg barely brushing the ends of the hair on her sides really was enough to direct her back on the path I had in mind for us, whenever she veered off course. Pretty soon she wasn’t veering off on her own paths. She was joining me in my plans, going where I was going and doing exactly what I was doing. It was as if we knew what the other was going to do before we did it. It seemed we both wanted to go in the same manner together as if we couldn’t do it any other way.

While pondering how Sorry and I joined together in our direction and purpose I was reminded of how Jesus watched to see where the Father was at work and joined Him. As I have searched to learn how to know and do the will of God, I can find no better model than Jesus.

John 5:17, 19-20 says, “17 My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.
19 I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

When we ask God, “What is your will for my life?” could we be asking the wrong question? I have noticed that in horsemanship when I ask the horse the wrong question I usually get the wrong answer. So when my horse gives me the wrong answer, I always check to see if I have asked the right question before I pursue the answer from the horse again. When I apply this principle to my spiritual life I may need to change the question to, ” What is God’s will?”

Once I know God’s will then I can adjust my life to Him. In other words; what is it that God is purposing where I am? Once I know what God is doing, then I know what I need to do. The focus needs to be on God, not me. In the same way, I focused on Sorry, not me. When I did this I was able to feel of her in a way I had not experienced before. I was able to join her in her movement and then she was also able to join me in the directions I chose with a new sensitivity and willingness. Of course, this sensitivity has been there all along, it was me who needed to discover it. It was me who need to make the changes. It was me who needed to quit yelling and start whispering.

The lessons Sorry taught me this week while riding her bareback are:
1. Watch to see where God is moving and join Him.
2. God is always at work around me.
3. Once I know where He is working I can adjust my life to join Him in what He is doing.
4. When I join God in where He is working and what He is already doing the things I do will be more effective and lasting.
5. Stay on God’s path, don’t veer off his course. Because apart from Him I can do nothing.

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Above pic by Julie Williams

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Perseverance

pull your hat down, it's windy

The perfect blue sky with only a wisp of a jet trail slowly disappearing over the tops of the leafless trees surrounding my round pen inspired me to persevere. It seemed to be holding on to the stillness. There was no wind to disperse the white tail quickly, so the jet stream continued making its signature across the otherwise clear sky. It was such a beautiful Christmas afternoon. I could hardly believe it was a winter day in the Sandhills of central Nebraska. I remember a couple of years ago when the snow-covered my entire back door and I fell through drifts of snow up to my chest as I struggled to the corn crib to bring in the corn to heat our house. I carried what seemed like hundreds of five gallon buckets of water to the horses in the barn. I kept busy scooping and re-scooping paths from the house to the barn, the barn to the poop pile, and the barn to the water spicket because the wind would fill each path back up as quickly as I cleared them. I endured simply out of necessity in order to complete everyday chores that were mostly up to me because Keith was gone all the time clearing the roads as the snow, wind, and cold hung on with what seemed a vengeance. But not this year. My round pen was completely dry. I only wore a sweater and a vest. The usual big winter packer boots, wool socks, Carhart coat with vest, insulated riding pants, neck scarf and fuzzy fur hat were all still in the closet today. My regular cowboy hat and boots were more than enough to keep me comfortable. I even left my gloves in the barn when I was saddling Sorry. This is my kind of weather.

I started out today with liberty “stick to me” game. For those of you who don’t know what this is, I will give a brief explanation, as I have some people now reading my blog who would not consider themselves horsemen. I take the halter off and the horse synchronizes with me. If I walk she stays right at my side, mirroring my every move, like dancers. If I trot she also does. If I stop or back up she stays right in step with me. Well you get the idea. This is fun and it goes just as planned. Sorry makes me proud to be with her. As I finish this activity and we are just hanging out together, I start to make a plan in my head for the rest of our time together. I pray, “Lord teach me what I need to learn today, and help me be the kind of partner and leader Sorry needs.” When I left the house earlier my intention was to spend about four hours with two horses. Two hours with Sorry and two with DJ. But oh, how often things don’t go as planned.

No matter what great plan I have come up with I try to remember that my plans must always remain flexible. I have learned horses don’t always fit into my perfect little agendas, fulfilling my every wish.  As I think about it, neither do most humans, or as for that matter even God may sometimes look at my aspirations with a question; saying “Really? Are you sure that is what you desire?” Thankfully I am discovering that His plans are always better than mine.

Oh no, I am so sorry. I got side-tracked a little. Hopefully this blog won’t go on too long. I will try to get to the point. Back to my plans. They were quite simple for the day: think about the lessons we have been working on our last few rides and refine them. Then take the same ideas adding a little more speed to them when ready. If you didn’t read the last three blogs, here is a little reminder about the major concepts we covered.

  1.  Be Still (Find a quietness, a peace, a stillness, a relaxation in both the horse and myself. Be Still and Know God.)
  2. Wait (Wait for the horse to find the right answer. Listen to her and give her a wait time where we do nothing as a reward. Wait on the Lord for answers. Trust His control. Do some listening while waiting. Patience is a virtue)
  3. Alone (A solitary place alone with your horse is relationship building time and often the best things happen then. Get closer to God through an alone time with him which may include a quiet stillness, waiting, listening, trusting and praying)
  4. Now for todays lesson Persevere; which we actually touched on in the previous blog “Alone” where I shared how Jesus prayed alone and long. In fact, he stayed all night long. Now that is perseverance. I am also reminded of when Jesus was in the garden praying before His crucifixion and the disciples kept falling asleep, when he had asked them to keep watch and pray. But they couldn’t do it.

By now you are probably wondering what happened during my ride on Sorry that led me to the topic of perseverance? It had to be more than a white jet stream trying to continue painting it’s picture on the blue canvas above. I will try to keep this as short as possible but it could become quite lengthy. So stick with me like Sorry did in the “stick to me game”. After synchronizing with Sorry, I did some regular round pen work at liberty with her which went very well. Her draw to me was much better than it was the other day, so I didn’t over do it.  I felt happy that we were making fine progress and moved on.

After mounting I still sensed a little defensiveness in the head when I picked up the reins so we played around with that until I was satisfied that we were making a better connection. Or so I thought at the time. Something would come out later that would show me the error of my assumption. I was very pleased with the way she was moving off my leg without using the reins in order to step her hindquarters over. I thought everything was quite good enough for the plan of the day, which if you remember included refining then speeding things up a bit.

As I asked Sorry to trot on the rail, she was fine until we came to the side of the pen where the snow had been the last few days causing it to be slippery. As you recall, I had allowed her to cut or drop in on that side of the pen, because I couldn’t blame her for protecting herself by being careful to avoid this slippery area where she could easily lose her footing and fall. But don’t you know that habits form quickly in horses. In fact they are very good at learning patterns. Show them something they understand about three times and they have got it whether you wanted them to or not. Which is why we can inadvertently teach our horses bad habits without even knowing it.

Anyway, as I said at the beginning the round pen was completely dry today. So I bet you can see where I am going with this. Every time we got to that side of the pen, no matter what direction we were going, Sorry dropped her shoulder and ducked into the middle of the pen as had become the habit the last few days. Not acceptable to me at this stage of her development or maybe any stage of a horse’s development. Why would we want to put something in there that we will have to take out later?

I was not mad at Sorry, as I am the one who had allowed this habit to develop over the last few days. So it was my job to help her realize that now that it was dry we could safely trot through that area. As soon as I asked her to stay straight on that part of the circle she raised her head and braced in self-defense. She moved off my leg fine, but I had to really hold without bracing my own hands to wait for her to soften not just her head but her whole body. At first she thought the answer to my holding was to go even faster. Again, I stayed calm, and still, waiting with all the gentle firmness that I could find in myself. A few times I resorted to a smaller circle within the circle until her body began to soften in the bend and the crookedness left. I tell you it took some polite, patient, passive, perseverance in the proper position to finally convince her my idea was a good one.

I did not drill her at a trot this whole time. I interspersed trotting with walking, and standing. I used flexing both lateral and vertical to relax her muscles and mind. I refined and refined, talking to the hind legs and moving the front shoulders over without loosing forward impulsion. We were finally moving past the dreaded area of the pen with rhythm and relaxation, when lo and behold a new area became the place to avoid. My barn cats were hunting in the trees next to the round pen. Sorry decided they were hunting her. So we worked through all the brace and self-preservation behaviors again in that area of the pen. Everything means something. Thankfully it didn’t take as long this time to convince her we didn’t have to change our movement or state of mind in that section of our world within the round pen.

Nearly four hours later I think I had gained her trust and leadership, at least for the moment. I sat quietly in the stillness on Sorry. The white jet stream had given up. It had disappeared from the clear blue sky. Dusk was falling over the trees, but a new sense of contentment arose in me and floated to the heavens, as I thanked my horse and my God for the great lesson in perseverance. Without loosing my cool or becoming unfair with Sorry I had worked through some issues that I didn’t even know I had caused.

I teach a bible study every Thur. It stretches me and keeps me accountable each week to search the scriptures for truths. For the last couple of weeks I have been wrestling with God about some theology that I am somewhat confused about. I have been persisting many more hours than my normal amount of time in study. I will not let go of God until I know His truth on this matter. I will be alone with him in a still place, waiting, listening, trusting, and praying with diligent study of the scriptures until I find the answers to my questions on this topic. I am not ready to share about it yet. When I am confident that God has guided me into all truth about it and I am able to explain it clearly more than likely it will appear one day on this blog. But in the mean time I encourage all of you to do the same. Persevere in faith, in prayer and doing good.

Perseverance is enduring in a course of action or belief. In its negative sense, it can mean being stubborn; in its positive sense, it means a continuing commitment.

Are you continually committed to be the best horseman you can be for your horse?

Are you continually committed to do the best thing for your horse, even if it means changing your plans?

Are you continually committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to understanding his truths, to following His perfect leadership as the Master Trainer?

Here are a couple of scriptures for you to help you meditate upon perseverance.

Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

1 Thess. 5:15-18  15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

A very wonderful Christmas Day is ending as I finish this blog. The next time I write to you I will be wishing you a Happy New Year.

Good night all,

Sherry

PS: AHHH! Congratulations, you have Persevered to the end of this long blog entry. Well done!

Alone

Peaceful morning with Sorry

I don’t believe I will ever grow tired of the solitude of a calm cool winter day spent with one of my horses. I much prefer temperatures in the 40’s rather than the 90’s even though when I settled into the seat of the saddle today the skin on my bottom said, ” Oh, my that gave me goose bumps.” The leather slowly warmed up as I sat quietly on Sorry enjoying the new stillness we have found together. As I waited, I prayed, “What would you like to teach us today, Lord?”

I was very thankful to feel well enough to be out riding again today after a couple of days off due to a very painful tooth abscess. After not eating much for 24 hours, staying in bed for nearly 36 hours, some strong pain pills and antibiotics I feel like functioning again. I won’t be able to see the dentist in Grand Island recommended by my local dentist until Dec. 30th. As long as the antibiotics keep working until then I think I will be fine.

As I was thinking how thankful I was to not be in so much pain I was reminded that earlier this fall Sorry also had some painful tooth issues. She started shaking her head and keeping one eye shut. At first I thought it was something in her eye, because we had been busting through some big brush and trees looking for new trails. I took her to the vet, he said “there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with her eye.”  A couple of weeks later I knew something was going on, she was pretty good as long as I was riding in a halter. So I suspected it was a tooth problem. I took her to another vet requesting a look at her teeth. After floating her teeth she was a new horse.  Well almost so.

I noticed that as I began to ask her for lateral flexion she was a little defensive. I mean, she put her head where I wanted it and quite quickly, but there was a twinge of resistance as if to avoid pain before she responded appropriately. I realized that she was just protecting herself from the remembrance of pain in her mouth she had been experiencing earlier this fall. I had a new sense of empathy for her after my own painful experience the last couple of days. So I decided to focus on making sure she understood that when I asked her with the reins to laterally bend it would not result in pain, and that she could respond without trying to protect herself.

In between each request I allowed her to walk around the round pen on a completely loose rein as a means of reward and relaxation. When I felt that she was realizing there was no pain involved, I activated the rein after the bend waiting for her to move her outside hind foot. At first there was some defensive behavior again. So I mixed it up by sometimes asking for the outside hind to step over with just my seat and air pressure from my foot not using any rein. She liked this and actually did better than she did with the rein cue. So I worked to help her be equally responsive to the rein cue alone, or the seat and leg cue without any rein. By the time I combined the two (rein with seat and leg cue) she was feeling real good. In fact, when I went to dismount today, she was able to remain in that still place without getting excited about ending our session and heading back to the barn. It was definitely a very peaceful time well spent together.

That is all we did today, and I know it doesn’t seem like much. But I think it was very important and quite necessary, because I have mainly been riding her on trail rides this fall with clients and sort of ignoring the advancement of her training. It can be easy to ignore things your horse is trying to tell you when your main goal is to just get from point A to B and have fun while doing it. Now don’t get me wrong I am into riding for fun as much as anyone else. However, I realized today that being alone with my horse in a very non-demanding environment where I could truly listen to her without any other distractions was very valuable to our relationship. As I take the time alone with Sorry to fix these issues I know that our next trail ride will be even more enjoyable, because it will be better for her too, not just for me.

As I was thinking about the time alone I have spent with Sorry the last few days I realize how precious it has been. Don’t get me wrong, I love riding with friends and clients. I enjoy riding in clinics to teach and learn. It doesn’t matter whether I am the instructor or participant in a clinic I always learn many things about myself and my horse. In fact that is why I am riding Sorry so much right now, because I recently sent in my deposit to ride with Buck Brannamen again this year in Kiowa CO Labor Day weekend. Last March I rode Sorry in one of his clinics in Fremont, NE. I want to be sure that if he recognizes us in Sept. he will be able to say, “Wow, you two have made a lot of progress since I last saw you.”

My point is this; riding with friends for entertainment, in a show or competition for the challenge, or with an instructor in a private lesson or a clinic as a means of progressing is great, and they all have their purpose. However, without some quality time alone with your horse with stillness to listen and a willingness to wait your progress may not be as great as you desire or expect. I actually look forward to solitude with my horses where there is no one to converse with but God and my horse.

In the same manner without spending time alone with God where we can still our mind into a position of listening and a willingness to wait on the Lord our progress as a Christian who reflects Christ in our everyday lives may be hindered. Jesus gave us a perfect example of this in Matthew 12:23 “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.”

Jesus was alone; he went apart into a solitary place, and was there all alone. Though he had so much work to do with others, yet he chose sometimes to be alone, to set us an example. A follower of  Christ does not mind being alone; they can enjoy themselves in solitude, when they have none else to converse with, none else to enjoy, but God and their own hearts.

When Jesus was alone he prayed. Though Christ, as God, was Lord of all, and was prayed to, yet Christ, as Man, had the form of a servant, and He prayed. Christ has set before us an example of secret prayer, and the performance of it secretly, according to the rule he gave in Matthew 6:6 “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

The time Jesus spent alone was long. Even though it was a stormy night, he continued in prayer all night long. It is good, at least sometimes, upon special occasions, and when we find our hearts enlarged, to continue long in secret prayer, and to take full scope in pouring out our hearts before the Lord. We must not cut short our time alone with God.

Even though it is important to fellowship with other believers in church, bible studies, etc. the time we spend alone with God in prayer must never be ignored because that is how we build a relationship with Him. In the same way the time we spend alone with our horse is really when the things that matter most often happen. There is nothing that can replace that time alone with our horse or with our God that can take us to that next level.

I hope you can find the time to be still, listen and wait alone with your horse and with God before the New Year begins. It will ensure that you will be off to a great start in 2012.

Sherry

Waiting

  • Psalm 27:14: Wait for the LORD;  be strong and take heart  and wait for the LORD.

It was a little chillier today, but another unusually warm day for the end of Dec. As I walked to the round pen with Sorry at my side a helicopter flew right over head breaking the silence of the stillness of the day. I stopped for a moment and watched it fly over. The first of many periods of waiting Sorry and I would experience together during our two-hour session.  As I began to walk again, Sorry hesitated for a moment as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to leave the herd. But it only took a little kiss noise with my mouth to encourage her to follow me.

Once in the round pen I took the halter off again, but this time instead of invisible line driving, I stayed in the middle of the round pen suggesting the direction and speed she moved forward.  I played with some up and down transitions using only my breath and life. Could I influence her without breaking either one of our bubbles? She was very willing. So I focused a little more on her draw since it can use some work. It is easy to get her to turn and face, but she doesn’t always come toward me as well as I wish she did. Whenever her draw to me was strong I spent a lot of time just waiting at her side experimenting with that stillness we both had experienced on Sun. She was definitely more relaxed and with me today. She didn’t seem to have a case of the druthers this time. She used more of the pen with freedom except for the side that still had some snow which was slightly slick. Can’t hardly blame her for that, so I overlooked it.

When I mounted she stood at ease, and I examined our energy to be sure we had the true stillness we had discovered in our last session. It felt pretty good. So we waited. Before I asked her to move I asked for some lateral flexion on both sides. I was particular about her position, how I asked and when I released. And then we waited. If she gave me any resistance, I waited.

This time when I moved her forward I was very pleased with the straightness, attitude and the amount of energy she gave me compared to how it had been during our last ride. I played with some freestyle transitions, (no rein contact). I felt we were off to a very good session, so we waited some more.

Most days this waiting for the horse to lick and chew, catch her wind, and relax is quite easy for me. However, waiting today was more challenging because my hands and feet were chilly and by the time we were finished they were starting to get numb. It was pretty warm when I left the house,  but as the sun went behind the trees by the round pen the temperature began to drop quickly. If I had worn warmer gloves and my winter boots it would not have been an issue and my patience would not have been so short. At least that is the theory. Have you ever noticed that it is a lot harder to wait when you are uncomfortable? A couple of times I thought, “Are you ever going to relax?” though I am sure it was less than a minute.

Even though I was getting cold I wanted to play around with some soft feel in vertical flexion. Again it was a game of waiting. Present the feel and wait for the correct response. Reward the try, then wait before asking again, thus giving her an opportunity to think about what had just happened. Now this isn’t the first time we have done this. So how was this time different? I was very intentional not only about the kind of feel and response we were offering one another, but I was  more conscious than ever about allowing that stillness to stay in both of us even though we were moving. I noticed that when the sense of stillness was present that the amount of time from when the feel was presented to getting the desired response was much shorter. In other words I didn’t have to wait as long for my horse to get with me, and she even started to stay with me longer. But when either one of us lost the quietness it took longer to get the correct response.

The moment I took my right foot out of the right stirrup in order to prepare for dismounting I felt the life and energy come up in Sorry. We lost that sense of stillness. So guess what I did? Yep! I waited. I know she was just feeling an excitement about going back to the herd and the barn for her grain. But even though I was getting pretty cold by now and I was as excited about going back as she was I disciplined myself to be still and wait. I knew that getting in a hurry for any reason would only set us back. So I chose to wait even though it was uncomfortable. Keith was already home from work, so I knew it had to be passed 5:00.

What does all of this waiting mean? And how can we apply it to our spiritual lives? I can think of a lot of ways. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Here are some scriptures about waiting for you to meditate upon.

  • Hebrews 6-15: And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
  • Romans 8:25: But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
  • Hosea 12:6: But you must return to your God;  maintain love and justice,  and wait for your God always
  • Lamentations 3:26: it is good to wait quietly  for the salvation of the LORD
  • Isaiah 30:18: Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;  therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!
  • Proverbs 8:34: Blessed are those who listen to me,  watching daily at my doors,  waiting at my doorway.
  • Psalm 37:7: Be still before the LORD  and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways,  when they carry out their wicked schemes

I think waiting on the Lord or your horse isn’t an easy task for most people, especailly when it is uncomfortable. We certainly do live in an instant society, where we not only want it now, but we expect everything right now! My hubby gave me a new laptop for Christmas and boy is it fast compared to my old antique desk top. In just a few days I am already getting spoiled. It didn’t used to bother me to have to wait minutes for something, not now by golly, if I have to wait a second or two I am thinking, “What is wrong with this stupid thing?”

When in the round pen try to get on horse time, which will include some waiting. When you ask God for something don’t be surprised if he asks you to wait sometimes. After all he is the Master Trainer and knows best. Trust Him. Plus don’t you think he is waiting on us sometimes? I sure am glad he is long-suffering. Oh what a patient God we serve.

As you go about your work and celebrating the birth of Christ this week, I encourage you to slow down a little. Stop rushing. Allow yourself to be still and wait on the Lord. I am positive he will bless you when you do. Isn’t that what Advent is all about? (Preparing and waiting for the Lord’s coming.) Don’t forget he is coming again. Amen.

Sherry

Be Still

Here it is the 4th week of Advent and it was over 50 degrees outside today with no wind, perfectly clear blue skies, and only a little snow and mud in my round pen. There was no way I was staying inside today after church. In fact the last few days have been extraordinary, so I have been out playing with my horses every afternoon even though I am still pampering a sprained wrist that isn’t totally healed, as a result of getting bucked off DJ the day after Thanksgiving. I’ll save that story for another blog entry.

I have been so busy since the first week of Nov. preparing for Christmas Day. I wanted to be a part of the local community festivities this year, so between that, preparing everything on the home front that pertains to a Merry Christmas season plus the normal every day life activities there has not been a dull moment around here. With all the activities it can be easy to leave out a quiet time with God.

The last couple of days I have been focusing on my horse, Sorry. She is very much like me, which may be why I relate to her so well. She is a ball full of energy, a little strong-willed yet sensitive, and she has amazing perseverance. No matter how many hard miles I have put on that horse in a day, she never quits. I have never worn her completely out. She has a good work ethic and is driven to perform. I recently took her to the vet to get her teeth floated. The vet had to give her an extra tranquilizer because she was mouthing the clamp so much. She wasn’t being naughty, just staying busy. She asked me, “Is this horse always this full of life and tightly wound?” I told her she was a hot horse, but I liked that in her. Even though her energy is very high she is quite controllable and for the most part very obedient even when she is nervous. I swear that little pony will go anywhere I point her, despite her fears, however you better be ready to ride. I love her exuberance and never want to quench it. But as I began thinking about our conversation, I realized it might not be a bad idea to start exploring a sense of quietness in both Sorry and myself.

We went to the round pen today. First a little liberty work from the ground. Mostly invisible line driving with lots of join up, and just hanging out together. Then I rode with the rope halter.  I put the reins over the saddle horn with full intention of not touching them for the whole two-hour ride, and I was able to accomplish this. My goal was to see how little it could take to ask her to go and whoa. In the beginning it did not matter to me which direction we went, what part of the pen we were in, or how fast we went. The main thing was that I matched her every move with harmony in my body so there would be no resistance between us. I paid attention to the smallest detail, even my breath. Did I feel good to her? Was she beginning to realize the best deal was for us to move and breathe together? Did she understand I was not demanding she perform to the best of her abilities, instead just move as fluidly as she would if I were not on her back?

She seemed happy with being the one who was in control. When I felt her gaits smoothing out with relaxation and rhythm I let her rest while petting her neck. Next I began to ask her to harmonize more with me. Stopping and going the direction I indicated with only my seat was easy for her and she was quite agreeable. However, she had a bit of an attitude about going forward with straightness from the stand still. She definitely had the druthers for the side of the pen closest to the barn. (druthers: I’d ruther be over there with my buddies) So consequently she expressed her opinion quite clearly with her ears and tail. Apparently I didn’t realize this was an issue when I was riding in contact with the reins. I do suppose I believed I was supporting her with the reins. But after this discovery, perhaps I was doing more than she actually needed. I imagine I have been holding her too much, trying to prevent her from making a mistake. Thus letting her know when she is wrong rather than allowing her to find when she is right.

Without touching the reins, I remained quiet and consistent, asking as softly as possible for the right answer and rewarding her when she found it. It didn’t take long and she was beginning to harmonize with me. She even began to stretch relax and blow as she found the sweet spot. After repeating this several times I knew we had arrived at the place to quit on the good note.

When I felt that spot I let my breath out and allowed myself to be still. I mean truly still. No agenda in my head. No judgement about what had just happened. Just a stillness in my heart, head, and body which let the moment be that which it was. There was not a breeze or sound to be heard as I sat on this talented horse. For the first time we were both together and perfectly still. Oh we have stood still where our feet were not moving plenty of times. But I promise you, we were both still moving in our heads even though our bodies were no longer in motion. We were planning the next move; striving to move forward; be better; find the next challenge; or just plain staying busy because the energy was burning deep within us. As I sat there on Sorry, I finally understood what it means to, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10 NIV

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

There are times to speak up and take action–but sometimes it’s important to just humbly sit back and silently reflect on God’s presence. This psalm encourages us to take time to meditate quietly in the assurance that God is in control.

As I stepped off Sorry, I felt God’s presence. I stood for a little while soaking it all in; the silence, the stillness, the awesome wonder of what my horses teach me about a powerful yet merciful God. When I got back to the barn I enjoyed listening to Sorry eat her grain. The thought crossed my mind to catch another horse, but somehow I just couldn’t take a chance in spoiling this very precious moment. So I opted to turn the whole herd out to the pasture. I followed them out; found a spot on the sunny side of a hill; stretched out on the slightly damp and cold ground where there were no sandburrs; watched the horses quietly grazing; enjoyed the stillness of a unusually warm December Sunday, as I quieted my mind in worship to God almighty and listened for that still small voice.

Have you found a place of stillness in the business of the holiday season to know God, to listen to His voice, and give Him the praise and honor due His Holy Name? If you haven’t, I encourage you to find a round pen, a quiet spot in the pasture with your horses, or any other suitable spot to have a moment with God where you can truly be still and know Him.

If you gleaned something else about your spiritual life from his article, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you have questions or comments about the horsemanship principles or ideas I presented in this article please e-mail me privately. I would like to keep this blog focusing on what we are learning about God from our horses. I have a yahoo chat group that you may join where we focus on and discuss training techniques.

Merry Christmas,

Sherry

PS: Above Pic of Sorry and Sherry by Julie Williams

Welcome to Sandhills Horse Sense

Here at Sandhills Horse Sense I will share how horses have taught me a little horse sense which has lead me on a journey that caused me to become much closer to the Master Trainer, Jesus Christ. Just like a well-trained horse, we have the responsibility to choose to live in a way that honors the Master Trainer, Jesus. He has a purpose for each one of our lives.  A few years ago I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to make a place for people to come with their horses to relax, reflect and renew their walk with God, by using the relationship we have with horses as a way of teaching us about our spiritual life in Christ.

It has taken a few years for God to prepare me for this ministry, and put it all together. The doors are now opening as I continue to yield to his leadership and guidance. Even though I may not always see what God is doing. I know that he is working things out for his purpose and glory. He is taking the pieces of my life and turning them into something fresh and new. He keeps telling me seek Him, let Him have the reins and hang on because He is taking me for the ride of my life. God is still training me and I know it is a life long process. I have peace and confidence in my Master Trainer, Jesus because I know He won’t steer me wrong.

We have to make daily choices with our horses as we guide and lead them toward being well trained, so too we make daily choices to let God take the reins of our lives to guide and lead us or not.

We set boundaries for our horses everyday. These boundaries are the actions and behaviors that are acceptable to us or not. Things that we know will keep them and us safe. Things that will develop both our confidence as a rider and that of the horse as a partner.  It is very much the same with our Master Trainer, Jesus. When we honor the boundaries of his words in the Bible, we will find security and confidence in our Master Trainer.

Boundaries are often used to teach us direction.  God uses boundaries in our lives to expose our sinful nature and teach us how to live obediently to His purpose for our lives. When we cross healthy boundaries we often end up with a self-centeredness which usually produces tragic consequences.

It is much the same when setting boundaries when training a horse. When I train a horse I have a goal in mind. A well-trained, consistent horse needs a solid foundation of boundaries. If he doesn’t have these boundaries he can be very dangerous both to himself and to the rider or handler.

When we live in pride, self-centeredness, fear, or a number of other sinful ways we become dangerous both to ourselves and those around us. The painful consequences that follow may help us to realize that we are not God, that we are not smarter than God, and that we need Him.

God is the only one who can change our heart. He is the only one who can safely hold the reins of our lives, set our boundaries and direct us without damaging us.  And in fact He will heal us, make us whole, and help us become the person He created us to be through his Masterful Training Program.

We pray you will be able to come and be a part of this Masterful Training Program through a Spirit Horse Retreat where God can use your love of Horses to teach you even more about life, His character, and what He has in store for you. If you are not able to travel to central Nebraska to enjoy the beautiful and peaceful sandhills at one of our Retreats, we invite you to follow this blog as we share some Sandhills horse sense with you.

In Christ,

Sherry