Sandy’s Lessons while Saving Shiloh

Lessons learned while finding the sweet spot of "Full Release" by Sandy Reuther

Lessons learned while finding the sweet spot of “Full Release” by Sandy Reuther

Last fall I had the opportunity to adopt a broodmare. I would be potentially saving a life since if the horses were not adopted they were destined for the auction. I picked out a semi friendly 8-year-old grulla mare and went to pick her up a week later. I found that she was originally going to be a riding horse but was accidentally bred by a creative stud and as a result joined the brood mare band. I got her home and worked with her enough to get her easier to catch. I had great plans to get her going as a riding horse but between her resistance and my lack of time during the school year, not much progress was made. I had signed up for an internship with Sherry and Shiloh was put on the packing list.

Sherry, Morgan and I started working with her on my first morning there and worked with her almost every day for four weeks. To say she was challenging would be an understatement, but she made progress and we learned many lessons. Three of the main lessons involve planning, responsibility, and creativity. The easiest lesson I learned involved planning.

The lesson involving planning is to definitely have a well thought out plan and be willing to throw it out. For instance, we had been saddling Shiloh for a few days and we were planning on saddling her, doing ground work, and then some passenger lessons. Well, Shiloh had decided that she had tried saddling and wasn’t for her. We took probably four hours that day, and many in later days, convincing her that saddling was a good thing and much easier than not getting saddled. For the first two weeks of saddling, she would test our resolve on saddling about every third day. We just had to meet her where she was at each day and work with her there. Also, have a plan when you are riding. Think ahead so that you can give the green horse direction because when they get lost, they can panic. As an example, think ahead enough to decide, “I am going to walk 10 steps beyond that cone and then do a one rein stop to the right.” It is your responsibility to know where you are going, so you can communicate with the horse.

On every team, the responsibilities are divided among the players. The second lesson I learned had to do with this division of tasks between Shiloh and I. First, I have to be the leader. I have to be in charge every time I am working with her and not accept any behaviors that could be detrimental. For example, when leading Shiloh I had to insist that she stay outside my personal bubble and not allow her to be in my back pocket like she prefers. The reason for this was so that when she spooked, she did not jump on me. Also, she liked to dominate us by running her shoulders into us and by keeping her out of my bubble, her shoulder was not in play. Shiloh’s primary responsibility was to do what I asked and to keep on doing it until I asked her to do something else. All other responsibilities pretty much rest on the rider. If the horse is not doing what you asked, then you are asking it wrong. Sometimes you have to be pretty creative in order to get your point across.

Becoming a team

Becoming a team

Being creative was the third lesson that I learned when working with Shiloh. She did not necessarily respond in the way that we expected and so we had to think outside the box. One instance was Shiloh not wanting to circle clockwise. After I worked with her for a while, and had moderate success, Sherry worked with her and traced the resistance to not being willing/able to flex to the right. Over the next few days we worked a lot on flexing and the problem with the circles fixed itself. Another instance was when Shiloh was learning to accept a saddle. She did not have a big problem with having a saddle on her back, it was approaching her with a saddle that caused problems. I set up two saddles and circled her so she would have to go near the saddles repeatedly and she could only rest between them. I also lead her between them and then backed her through them. By figuring out what Shiloh needed and giving it to her, we made progress.

Every horse that you work is learning every time you work it. I also believe that you are learning every time you work a horse. Although by working with Shiloh I learned a lot about planning, responsibilities, and creativity; the lessons didn’t end there. I can’t wait to see what she teaches me next.

Sandy Reuther


Saving Shiloh Part 3 (A Willing Heart)

A willing heart!

A willing heart!

I plan to wrap up the story of “Saving Shiloh” in this Part 3. As a quick reminder Shiloh is an 8-year-old brood mare who I started under saddle in 30 days with her owner, Sandy. As we worked with her we noticed she went through three stages.  She started out with a lot of resistance, which I discussed in Part 1. Then in stage 2 she began to go through the motions. We had her body and sometimes even her mind, but we didn’t have her heart at all yet. Before I write about Stage 3 I would like to share a few more thoughts about “going through the motions”.

There’s something very sobering about a Judgment Day tragedy Jesus described.

Matthew 7:21-23“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you‘”

Those are some of the most chilling words in the Bible. “You knew all about Me, but I never knew you.” Because they had Jesus in their head – but somehow never asked Him into their heart. So, maybe it’s possible to know all about Jesus, but not really know Jesus. Because you’ve missed the one step that makes the Savior your Savior.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” When God says “believe,” He’s talking about grabbing Jesus like He’s your only hope. Pinning all your hopes on Jesus and what He did when He died on the cross to pay for every sin you’ve ever done. If you ask someone if they are married and they say, “I’m not sure,” then they must not be married. If you don’t know you’ve given yourself to Jesus, you probably haven’t. Because it’s a conscious commitment. 

“Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives— as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy— something they obtain and then forget about until they die. What keeps you from being His disciple?” Billy Graham

If you miss the step of committing your life to Him, you miss Jesus. You miss heaven. Because you’re only going through the motions, just like Shiloh was. But there came a day when she started to ask us questions and to think instead of react to everything. She became responsive and curious. She was more willing to try things and seemed to want to please us. As she learned a respect for authority there was less discord and more harmony. Her cooperation brought us moments of unity. It seemed the more confident she became the more obedient she was. We could see the hard look in her eyes changing to a softness, her change of expression was the first sign we were getting into her heart.

Aren’t we often like this? At first we resist everything about God. Then we might give just enough of ourselves to Him so we are going through the motions. But there comes a day when we start to ask the right questions. We think about the truths in the Word of God rather than just reacting to religious institutions. We get curious about God and start responding to his voice. We are more willing to try the things He asks us to do in His Word, and we actually want to please Him more than man. We learn to respect His authority and live in harmony with those around us rather than in discord. This cooperation with the Word of God creates a peace and unity in our lives. The more confident we become in who God is and who we are in Christ Jesus the more obedience feels like the right way. Our heart softens, and soon we willingly give Jesus our whole life. We go from just being a convert to being a disciple. Following Him with our whole heart becomes the only logical thing to do.

Stage 3 A Willing Heart

When Shiloh got to this stage she was not only doing things we asked her to do with her physical body, but her mind was engaged and she was doing it with all her heart. Her willingness to try even though she was sometimes still afraid was amazing considering where she had started. She wasn’t able to hold it all together 100% of the time. But she was moving closer and staying a little longer in the sweet spot of “full release”. I think she finally realized we were on her side and the plan we had wasn’t so bad, in fact it was a good one. Once you win a horse’s heart there isn’t anything they won’t do for you.

What Is the Heart?

“When Scripture talks about the heart, it’s not talking about that life-sustaining muscle. It’s talking about our entire inner being. The heart is the seat of our emotions, the seat of decisive action, and the seat of belief (as well as doubt).” Billy Graham

As Samuel is about to choose David as the next king, God reminds Samuel, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel  16:7). Throughout Scripture God seems to care more about the state of this unseen place in us, our hearts, rather than what everybody else can see in our behavior. While we judge each other by what we can see, God looks deep inside of us to see what nobody else sees.

The heart is the place in us that holds what we love most . . . what we crave . . . what motivates us. This is the place that actually defines who we are. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our lives are motivated by our hearts. So what we love determines how we live.

On the outside Shiloh may have looked like a stubborn old brood mare set in her ways , quite pushy, yet easily frightened, a little thin, with some foot issues due to years of lack of farrier care. However, Sandy, her rescuer saw beyond all of the inadequacies, lack of experience, and failures. She looked deep inside and saw what nobody else could see; a beautiful, valuable, reliable riding partner with a lot of heart and gentleness. Not only did Sandy see this wonderful horse on the inside she was willing to do what it took to help Shiloh face and overcome her fears, let go of her defensiveness, and release control of her life to a loving master.

All Sandy had to do to bring out the horse she knew was inside was break though the resistance, help Shiloh start thinking and understand with her mind so that she wasn’t just going through the motions, and finally show Shiloh she was on her side, she cared about her and the plan was a good one. Once Shiloh believed this the willingness which sprang from her was almost as if she had a new heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you”Ezekiel 36:26

When grace happens, we receive not a nice complement from God but a new heart. Give your heart to Christ, and he returns the favor.

“I am convinced that when a man sincerely searches for God with all his heart, God will reveal Himself in some way.” Billy Graham

Aren’t we often like this? A little rough around the edges, full of inadequacies and failures. We start out not only “resistant” to the One who wants to rescue us but down right rebellious towards His offer to save us. But He doesn’t give up on us He keeps drawing us with His kindness and love until He breaks through the walls we have built. After a while we may get on board with the program a least enough to “go through the motions”. But He still doesn’t give up on us, He starts to teach us until our mind comes around to believing the truth.

And finally Jesus convinces us  He is on our side, he cares and His plan for our life is a good one. Even though it may seem scary to “fully release” everything  to Him, it is the sweetest spot we can be. When we know how sweet it is a “willing heart” is the result. On our own we may not be able to hold it all together 100% of the time, but we have the promise of  His Word and the Holy Spirit to guide us which will keep us moving ever closer to becoming a valuable partner in the work of His Kingdom.

As I close this story of “Saving Shiloh” I want us to keep in mind we all need a starting place, enough honesty and self-awareness to know where we are beginning.  In the beginning Shiloh was resistant, and then she was just going through the motions, her heart was way off track. If today you are seeing yourself in Shiloh’s story realizing your heart may be off track, remember God has known it well before today. And He is deeply pleased if you recognize it too.  I want to encourage you let go of any fear,  guilt, or pride because Jesus is not condemning you He simply wants to give you a new life like Sandy gave to Shiloh. Getting into His trailer and being adopted into the family of God is just the beginning of a very exciting adventure which includes a discipleship training program where you  develop a renewed mind and are given a new heart.  Remember he cares and has a good plan for you.

I pray Shiloh’s story will redefine the way you view God. I pray after reading and meditating on the thoughts that spoke to your heart you will be drawn into the most passionate relationship with your Creator. He is so ready to engage your soul.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me. I host Spirit Horse Retreats at my Horse Lovers Bunkhouse near Burwell, NE where you can learn more about this great adventure with God as your Master trainer. I also have a Facebook group called Saddle Up for Christ, we would love to have you join us for daily inspiration.

Thank you for reading Shiloh’s story. Be sure to read what Sandy learned from Shiloh titled “Sandy’s Lesson while Saving Shiloh”  she has some good insight. Her entry is more on the training side and less on the spiritual side. But I am sure that if you dig in with an open mind you will also see lessons you can apply to your spiritual life and faith in God.

Until next time, May the horse be with you, and God bless you,