Lady Wouldn’t Go!
By Betsy Kelleher
We’ve all probably been there. Something doesn’t go right and you lose your patience. After the first show this year with Lady, when she loaded into the trailer without hesitation, I sorta hoped she might load like that again for the next show. No such luck!
I woke up that morning feeling less than eager, just not quite “in the zone.” I guess I was tired. I was ready to go to a horse show, however! Everything was packed carefully and everything had been double checked. The forecast of possible rain was recorded in my brain, but I was determined to go until developments went otherwise.
Lady has a way of telling me if my attitude isn’t right. I walked her slowly toward the trailer, as I had done before, and just as we got to the ramp, Lady took one sidelong look at me and decided—NOT TODAY!
Looking back, I have tried to remember anything I did or didn’t do that contributed to the fiasco that it became. Before the previous loading, when she went in without hesitation, I had done every thing I could think of to make her calm. And she had been calm enough to override my own excitement. I figured this time, she could just be herself. Well, that didn’t work!
Lady refused to load. I tried several times, and she would get almost to the ramp, look at me and scoot backward. Finally, I got really firm. I used the end of the lead rope a few times on her rump. Russ tried to help by getting into the trailer and reaching for the lead rope as I got closer. She backed away even more. Then it started to rain. The ramp got slippery, and Russ fell. That did it. I ignored Lady while she found grass nearby and I helped Russ get back on his feet. Then I put Lady back in her stall, and gave her one more slap on the rump with the lead rope. Didn’t even give her a hay snack.
Well, it turned out that the show was cancelled because of the rain. If Lady had loaded for me, we would have driven to the show in a downpour and then turned around and come back. Hmmm. I think Lady saved me a lot of trouble by not loading.
I tried to “make up” with Lady afterward, but I soon realized something was wrong. She acted mad, pouty, hurt and aloof for more than a week. Even though I talked to her (yes, I apologized!) and rubbed on her favorite spots, she refused to respond in her usual affectionate way. I was beginning to worry. Other people who knew her also noticed. So I slipped some extra chamomile tea into a couple feedings, and the very next day, we had a breakthrough (More about that later)!
Maybe I wanted to go to that show more than I realized. Or maybe Lady’s refusal to load was just so frustrating that I couldn’t handle it that morning. She has been working so well for me, I wanted her to load obediently too! But I probably hadn’t taken time that morning to get myself under control, to be calm and to let God’s Spirit take over my desires so that I could operate in His power instead of my own. When things get frustrating or challenging, we really NEED that extra help that God offers. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.” From experience, I have gained a truth. When we lean only upon ourselves, we lean on a weak post. No matter how strong we think we are, it is nothing compared to what we can be with the help of a Sovereign God!
Was it by chance that a week later a friend loaned me the April issue of Heartland Horseman magazine that happened to contain an article on inner control? Reading it made me realize something very important. One early experience with Lady had taught me she responded to patience and quiet persistence while punishment and force got her very excited. All horse owners should know that. True, her refusal to load was not appropriate. Just because her refusal saved me a trip in the rain was no reason to excuse her disobedience. But I am determined to control my own inner frustrations better next time in order to teach her to load more willingly.
Back to the magazine article, which was entitled, “Achieve your Horse Show Goals.” It contained a quote by Pat Parelli that I would like to share: “All your inner actions must be under control, or they come out in outer actions. When your inner actions are in control, you can be firm without being mean or mad.” I had to really think about that awhile. Human control influences the horse’s reactions, the article continued. Although you dominate the horse, you must also relax so you can tactfully channel the horse’s energy. The writer also mentioned that it is the rider’s responsibility to communicate relaxation to the horse. Relaxation, not anger and frustration.
So once again, I believe God supplied the information and helpful reminder I needed to work on my problem. Not only the problem of loading Lady into a trailer, but the problem of controlling my inner emotions, of handling my frustrations and staying focused on a calm control and a calm inner spirit.
I also realized something about my priorities. Here I was, worrying about Lady’s refusal to “make up” with me, not even thinking about my relationship with the Spirit of God within me! Wow. I believe God works through such incidents to teach us important truth. I saw something in my own emotions and inner control that did not feel good. I know that I tend to panic easily (just like Lady?) instead of keeping a cool head. But if I were focusing on the really important things, like my relationship with God, and if that was “right,” then I probably wouldn’t have lost my patience like I did. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When the top priority relationship is right, other relationships work better and things just fall in place. If God’s top priority is a close relationship with each of His children, that should also be our top priority, too!
I believe that God leads us through His Holy Spirit, a very real being who comes to dwell within anyone who is a true believer. We all need help, right? We can’t live the Christian life on our own. God knows that, and He has provided the ultimate Helper to teach us, to correct us, to remind us, to guide us, and to give us inner strength and wisdom when it is needed. Sometimes we quench that still small voice within us, and sometimes we are just too busy or emotional to listen. Sometimes we allow ourselves to become distracted and to get off track so far that we don’t even hear that still small voice anymore. God is always ready to help us get back where we belong, however.
I keep pondering why Lady loaded so willingly for the first show this year. That was unusual for her. I was excited, but my inner feelings that day were positive and focused on Lady. I was determined to guide her patiently toward the trailer, one step at a time, without rushing her. I had planned for extra time, knowing that loading is not easy for her. I had added some flower essence to her water and a little extra chamomile tea in her feed, as well as the Moody Mare stuff. OK, quit laughing; I still think it helped!
And for the last show, although I had plenty of time, I felt rushed. My attitude was different. I was so focused on loading my mare that I didn’t think about her feelings, only my own. My “carnal nature” took over! And as I walked Lady toward the trailer, instead of walking right in as she had before, this time she stopped and looked at me and backed away. Was there something in ME that caused her reaction? Or was it because I hadn’t given her all the calming stuff? I can’t believe that Lady knew the show would be rained out so there was no use loading. But I can believe that God knew, and allowed this scenario for my benefit. I really think I need to “listen” to my mare a little more instead of trying to force her. That’s a lesson I have relearned several times in the last three years, however.
Lady is just too sensitive! But that’s what makes her so great at times. She is sensitive to each cue, sensitive to what I am asking and she can amaze me at times with her quick obedient response. But after three years with her, I know she responds best when I am calm and positive. When my own attitude is right, she follows. When I am trusting God within me and I’m not bothered about stuff, she seems to trust me better. Perhaps this alpha mare can see within my soul. Perhaps she is my spiritual indicator.
Just when I thought I was doing so well, I am reminded that Someone else is really in control and there is still more to learn! Yes, that’s life. And God is right there, guiding and helping through His Spirit. Just as Lady is sensitive to my guidance, I must learn to be more sensitive to His.
(Originally published in the August 2007 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)