By Betsy Kelleher
Several months ago, I bought the book “Nine Secrets of Perfect Horsemanship” by Don Blazer. I must admit I didn’t buy the book the first time I saw it in my Equestrian Edge Book Club selections. I’ve read Don Blazer’s columns in the Illinois Horse Network, and I am afraid I didn’t take him seriously. I finally got around to reading the first chapter.
It was amazing! His reference to our “creative potential” and how it applies to life and to horse training was exciting! I’ve reread that chapter twice now, and I plan to read it again and again, until it all sinks in. I bought the book because of the title. We all want to know the secrets, right? And I think Don Blazer is revealing them in this book. I have a whole new attitude toward this author and horse trainer.
All my life, I’ve heard horse people tell me to be in control. Horses are like children, and they must be disciplined and controlled to be safe. But I’m going to quote one sentence from Blazer’s first chapter, “The heart is stronger than the ego, and when the horse is given freedom, asked instead of controlled, perfection results.” I know it’s dangerous to give out incomplete information, but I will leave it up to my readers to seek the whole truth from this book. It is there, and it is fascinating!
I have found several books recently that promote this kinder attitude toward horse training. We are being told to just be with our horse, to ask instead of control, to listen, to give the horse time to learn, to be patient and kind and to let the horse teach us. These words may be directed to those who have been overcontrolling, in the hope of diminishing that tendency. On the other hand, women horse owners sometimes allow their horses to be rude and pushy without dealing properly with such actions. They love their horses, they say, but they simply do not know how to fix the problem. When a horse gets obnoxious, the owner should deal with it immediately. I’m not saying harsher control is the answer, or stricter discipline; I’m saying the owner (or a trainer) needs to “ask” the horse for different behavior and to ask patiently and persistently (yeah, that sounds like Pat Parelli!). You keep on asking until the horse takes you seriously and understands what you are asking for! Again, it’s like raising children.
We will reap what we sow. If we want a special partnership, we must take this partnership seriously. Problems arise when a horse’s needs are not given enough consideration. In addition, owners who get by with giving minimal care and attention will miss out on something fantastic. A special magic occurs when a horse chooses to give itself to the owner in submissive trust and affection and the relationship becomes a vibrant partnership! It does not always come easily, but it is worth the effort.
This Christmas, if your son or daughter wants a horse, consider carefully if there is a responsible person able to give a horse adequate time and attention. Many youngsters want a horse, but not every one of them will take horse ownership seriously after he or she gets it! I remember my own desire for a horse as a young girl. Though I sometimes rode one of the team my Grandpa used for farming, I had to wait until I was almost 40 to have my own horse. Fanny changed my life forever. She became my obsession. I put extra time and effort into caring for her, and she became a wonderful partner. From my experiences with Fanny, I grew both mentally and spiritually. I had to deal with personal issues, with responsibility, patience and submission. I had to face my fears and I had to go beyond where I had been. I found new confidence and a greater joy in living. Through my horse and rider experiences, I learned more about myself and I learned about life. I went from knowing about horses to knowing one horse in a special partnership.
While reading an article in a devotional magazine by Charles Stanley on knowing God, he said that many people never know God even though they attend Church. I once thought I was a Christian because I knew about God; but I later discovered that I hadn’t known Him personally. And that discovery made all the difference!
To quote Stanley, “…knowing God includes a cost, and some people are simply unwilling to pay the price.” He also said, “For any relationship to grow, we must spend time communicating, listening, and making an effort to understand more about the other person (or being).” The same principle applies to any relationship, with a horse, a husband, or with God Himself. It takes time and it takes a serious effort.
One day God reached down and touched a physical need in my body and “fixed” it, even without my having the faith to ask for healing. Later, I questioned why and God led me to Matthew 9:6, “that you may know I have the power to forgive.” I remember other words, that “God means business,” and I am humbled by that thought. So many times, I realize I have not taken the time to go all the way in His will. I have let fears and personal comfort turn me aside. And I remember that Jesus went all the way for me. He died on a cross and suffered pain and humiliation and the separation from His Father that I deserved. He died so I could be forgiven and spend eternity with Him. I need to take His love seriously!
Christmas is a season of joy and celebration, but its true meaning goes much deeper. We buy gifts for our loved ones and look forward to receiving gifts back, and we sometimes disregard the greatest gift of all, God’s love for each one of us. That love was born in human flesh, a baby in a stable manger, a visible incarnation of God Himself, a forthcoming sacrifice for the sin of all mankind.
When God reached out to the world, He meant business. He gave us a mighty miracle in the birth of a precious baby. He has many gifts for anyone willing to receive them. Salvation itself is a free gift. And God offers the gift of His Holy Spirit, to live within each believer, as a guide, a teacher, a source of truth and strength! God is serious about saving his children, He is serious about helping us through this life on Earth, and He is serious about what our lives can and should be. I believe He wants us to be serious, too, in our response to His love, in our commitment to His Kingdom.
During this Christmas season, may each of us seek that Baby’s manger, to bow in humble adoration and find the Spirit of this child born fresh into our hearts. May we be willing to accept the Gifts that God offers. Going back to the idea that we reap what we sow, Galatians 6:8-9 says, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
May each of us become willing to mean business with God, to take the time, to pay the price, to make a genuine commitment to follow His Spirit all the way wherever He may lead us.
(Originally published in the December 2005 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)