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.
PS: Above Pic of Sorry and Sherry by Julie Williams