Connect and Reconnect
By Betsy Kelleher
While surfing eBay possibilities, I discovered (and purchased) a video, “Despooking the Horse,” for $8.00 (plus $4 shipping). This four hour video was not represented as a professionally produced work, but as an instructional tool. I thought for eight bucks, I wouldn’t lose too much and I was curious.
I enjoyed the video, and my husband is still raving about it! The featured clinician is Marv Walker, a horse trainer with a sense of humor who lives in Georgia. He’s an older fella that just talks while he’s doing it, and someone videos it in a very informal setting. Somehow, it seems more realistic than the usual “professional” videos. His website, www.AwarenessHorsemanship.com is worth a look.
One particular comment by this clinician struck me at a special point of interest. He was working with a 7 year old mare, halter broke but not yet ridden. He talked first about how to establish himself as the lead horse so that she would rely on him as the leader when “spooked.” He pulled out a sheet of plastic, and a big tarp to “spook” the mare and then proceeded to build on her dependence on him as the leader.
This mare seemed to quickly get the idea, so much so that the clinician off-handedly remarked, “we need a different horse!” She seemed to accept everything he did around her, until he brought out the “poppers” which sounded like gunshots. That particular “spook” broke the connection and he had to start over. And that was his point. “You can always reestablish the connection.”
Even when the horse leaves you, he was saying, you can work to get him back to you. I found myself thinking how well horses remember things, and how difficult it can be to get a horse to bond with a human after some traumatic incident. But this guy is saying you can bring them back to you. Marv Walker’s idea is to first get connected with the horse through a series of directions, to make the horse recognize him as leader. Then, present a “spook” and then bring the horse back by giving instructions the horse can follow, rebuilding the bond. Connect and reconnect. And here I found a spiritual truth that I needed to hear and perhaps God set it up in this way just for me to consider.
I realized I was thinking not just about horses and humans, but also about God and me and my loss of connection with Him at times. I felt a profound thankfulness deep inside, because I knew this trainer from Georgia had the right perspective regarding both experiences with horses and my own experience with God.
I had recently read Ephesians 1:1-15, a really special section to me. I was reminded of my own connection with God. I remember the morning that I realized I truly belonged to God’s family, and the words sang through my mind, “I am His and He is mine!” A song with those very words has always been my special favorite. I know in my heart that I had found a very real, intimate connection with an Almighty Father who accepted me as I was. I also know that God gives us each the grace to reconnect, to come back into His Presence. As a loving Father, He is always waiting for us, His prodigal sons and daughters, and He is watching and waiting with open arms of love and reconciliation. Yes, there are times we stray, or lose focus on our purpose, or neglect to stay with Him, but as long as we are alive, there is still the opportunity to turn back into His waiting arms.
The mare on the video lost connection when Marv Walker shot off the poppers. For some reason, the loud sound drove her away, broke her trust, scared her just a little too much. And she didn’t want to come back right away. Don’t we sometimes feel God asks a little too much, and we find ourselves doing what WE want instead? We look for another way out, another comfort, an escape. Yet, He knows our hearts, and He has a purpose, and He will keep on working to gain our trust and dependence on Him. We can do whatever He asks, as long as we rely on His guidance and strength to work with us. It just takes a renewed connection, a turning back to be with Him.
We have a new horse. Sammy has gone to a loving new home, and Rocky is our new boy. A tri-color Walker, short enough to make it easier to mount, he is very calm and quiet most of the time. He is young, just turned five, and though he is smart, he does not yet know about us, just as we don’t yet fully know him. The getting acquainted period is sometimes nerve-wracking (especially when you assume a horse just knows about raincoats before you take time to introduce him!). We’re in the process of building trust and respect and forming a good connection. As always, Russ wants to hop on and go riding and I want to wait, to be sure we know what to expect when we get out on the trail.
Even though Rocky was totally oblivious to several dogs running around him on a familiar trail back home, a new dog here is something to stop and look at, to make sure it is friendly before we go on! Rocky is extremely curious about everything he sees! I guess that is good, but it can make a rider wonder what he will do next. That’s why we need to get acquainted, to learn how Rocky will react to new things, how he will deal with them and how well he will depend upon his new rider. Russ needs time to find his own confidence as the leader of this young new mount. Rocky is friendly, and loves attention and is responding well to Russ’ efforts. Russ just needs to use the ideas in this video by Marv Walker, to establish himself as the leader that Rocky can look to for assurance whenever some scary object is presented.
It is important to keep a horse’s attention and to build the horse’s dependence upon his rider. The connection of respect, trust and dependence needs to be established firmly and quickly in every human horse relationship.
Part of any connection is the recognition of one party as the leader. A horse must accept a human as its leader, before it will follow. And a human must accept God as Authority before he or she will learn to follow His Divine leadership. I find so many parallels between the spiritual world and the world of horsemanship!
By the way, Marv Walker has other videos available on eBay as well as the despooking one. You might want to take a look. If you go to his website, and click on videos, you will be taken to the eBay site. Not that I’m giving him free advertising, just sharing my own discovery. There are a lot of good horse trainers out there, and it’s nice to know about them and what they teach. We can probably learn a little something from each one, better than sticking to only one.
When it comes to spiritual masters, however, there is only One, in my Book.
(Originally published in the June 2005 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)