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Milestone Moment

Milestone Moment

By Betsy Kelleher

     A friend’s recent experience is too precious not to share. She had purchased a horse several months ago, whose laid back nature and lack of energy turned out to reveal some minor health problems! With treatment, the horse is feeling better and she has resumed her riding lessons. The horse is still quietly good natured, and this recent incident was a real surprise!  

     She has to get her horse from a pasture with many other horses. There are actually two pastures, with a space between fences. On this certain day, her horse was munching away at a large hay bale in his pasture when she walked out into that space between pastures to get his attention. She called his name; and he looked up and left the hay, walking slowly toward her with his head low. Readers, please note that he responded to her call, but he definitely took his time according to his usual slow-moving custom.

     As he reached the fence, my friend said to him, “Aw come on, lazy horse, let’s race to the gate!” She says she had just turned to start her little jog, not even getting one whole stride, when he looks at her, lets out a twisty buck and takes off galloping to the gate. Getting there, he slams on the brakes with mud flying and turns around to look at her as if to say, “Ha Ha, I won!”

     It was a thrilling moment that she says will stay with her a long time. I remember the excitement in her voice and her big smile as she first told me about it. I was excited because I saw it as a milestone in communication and bonding between horse and human. But she was even more excited because this was the very first time she had EVER seen him run.  He had always walked to the gate very slowly in the past, and she was hoping this time for maybe a nice jog trot at the most!

     It was a memorable moment not only because this slow-moving “lazy” horse actually showed a sudden new energy and healthy joy, but she really believes he knew what she was asking (maybe I’ve contributed to her delusions by sharing my own experiences with Lady, who often seems to know what I’m saying to her).

     Things often “work together” as we seek answers to our questions, and while working on this column, I received an email announcing a new post by Carolyn Resnick on her blog. I mentioned Carolyn Resnick in my February column, in regard to a new DVD “The Path of the Horse” and the influence of a group of horse trainers and authors featured on that DVD. I signed up for her blog out of curiosity and I have found some interesting ideas within her excellent blog pages!

     I can’t share the whole post from this particular blog, but you can read it for yourself at It’s about body language. Our body’s “language” is one means of communication with our horses, and they often read it extremely well. When my friend turned to race her horse to the gate, I think he knew instantly what she had in mind. I am not saying he didn’t understand her words. But just as a herd of horses all run when one gets the notion, my friend’s horse ran when she showed her intent. In reading her body language, he was willing to join in the fun and she discovered a quality of his personality she had never seen before! Had he been bored previously as well as physically tired? Did her challenge to race suddenly bring to life some desire within him to have FUN?

     I believe our horses do enjoy playing and having fun with us. Perhaps we fear how they might express themselves. A playful kick in the pasture with other horses is usually no problem, but when directed toward a human companion, it could be very dangerous. So we don’t take the chance.

     My friend was on one side of the fence and her horse was on the other. It was the perfect solution for communication with safety—the perfect moment to share the joy of a simple race to the gate! And although the horse won the race, I know my friend also found a cherished treasure. I am reminded of an afternoon long ago when I shared my mare’s love of speed while riding her for an extended run in a newly harvested bean field. Those precious moments do stay with us. They nourish and bind our spirits together in a working relationship with our Equus partner.

     You should know that God also wants to enjoy our companionship and to share our joys in life. He gives us horses. He paints beautiful sunsets, creates lovely flowers and orchestrates the songs of birds. He sends a cool breeze on a hot afternoon. Those precious moments nourish and bind our spirits in an intimate fellowship with our Creator. But as an email circulating the internet says, we must be listening and watching when God whispers His answers, or we will miss them. Our hearts must be in tune with His.

     He doesn’t make everything easy and nice. If we never had a mountain to climb, we wouldn’t develop our muscles and our lungs. He knows the outcome of our struggles. He challenges us to run with him, to enjoy the life He has given and to discover His perfect love and care. Scripture reminds us that His ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours. We must focus on HIM before we can “join up” with His eternal purpose.

     Scripture tells us to rejoice. In Philippians 4:4, Living Bible version, Paul writes, “Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!” Later, in verse 8, he admonishes, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.”

     In spite of the world’s problems, God still promises better things ahead. We must believe.
(Originally published in the October 2009 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)

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