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What do you Want?

What Do You Want?

By Betsy Kelleher

    My husband loves to watch videos by Marv Walker, a horse trainer from Georgia. These videos are not professional quality technically, but they are educational. Yes, I’ve mentioned these videos before, but I’m mentioning them again because there’s a specific lesson to be learned here.

    The first video I bought was on “Despooking the Horse,” a four hour tape in which someone held a camera while Mr. Walker worked with a mare that didn’t seem too spooky until he made a loud popper noise. After that, it was a definite challenge to reconnect with the mare!

    Mr. Walker has a good sense of humor as he relates to the audience, and he has a strict code of authority in dealing with a horse. In a round pen, Walker directs the horse to “go there” in one direction for awhile, then tells it to “go that way” in another direction. The whole idea is to give a series of orders and make sure the horse will follow those directions, until the horse turns, with a respectful attitude, toward this human creature with the question, “what do you want?” Walker makes round pen work a bit simpler for all of us and offers a very realistic demonstration of his technique. During the video, he also gives instructions to the viewers regarding safety with a horse and how to get the horse to decide he is the leader. Once the horse’s attitude is correct toward his “leader,” the horse comes to stand peacefully beside the leader and follows him wherever he goes.

    I wish I had a round pen. I tried running one horse around in our small indoor arena, but it wasn’t small enough, and this horse was a fast mover. I ended up with a knee that hurt for a couple months, and never did get the horse to turn and face me or come to me.

    Walker’s methodology is that giving the horse directions results in the horse’s decision, “hey, this man is telling me what to do and I’m doing it, so he must be the leader.” And then the horse turns to face the leader, as if to say, “What do you want?” and comes to him. It works on the video!

    I’ve also watched tapes with John Lyons “On the Trail.” As he was working his palomino Seattle on the lead line, he was asking him to back up, to turn first one way then the other, then to move his front and to move his hindquarters, first one direction then another. Hmmm. Wasn’t he doing about the same thing as Walker, only using a lead rope instead of a round pen? He was giving a series of directions that the horse obeyed. And the horse was facing him and following the directions. I can see why Lyons’ horses are so athletic; he sure does keep them moving and they sure do get lots of exercise. And they do recognize John Lyons as leader.

    One goal in watching these tapes was to learn to establish myself as a leader with my Tennessee Walking Horse mare. Lady’s headstrong ways sometimes challenge my leadership. At least, when we walk back to her stall, she lets me stop her now and then while I catch up! After watching Pat Parelli’s Seven Games video, I tried some things with her recently that resulted in a real difference in her attitude. I’m afraid I didn’t do it exactly like Parelli would have, but Lady isn’t the same docile, well trained Arab that he was working with on his video.

    I asked her to back up by shaking the lead rope, trying to do it like Pat Parelli instructed, but she misunderstood and went quickly forward, brushing past me a little too close. I tried again several times, finally stopping her with one slap of a riding crop on her chest. That was my way of responding with the greatest of the four pressures that Parelli mentions. I then asked her to turn first one way then the other while on the lead rope (which she didn’t understand either and again ran forward very close to me before I could stop her). I used the crop once more, and suddenly, she looked at me with a very different look in her eye, as if to say, “Hey, what’s going on here? What do you want?” We did the exercise again, and this time she watched me carefully and when I asked for a turn this way or that, she did it. And the next day, when I did the same exercise again, I could see that she remembered everything I had taught her! Lady is so smart; it only took a few minutes and a firm hand (I know I didn’t do it quite the same as Parelli or Walker or Lyons, but it worked for me)!

    I realized this morning as I had my “quiet time,” that God wants me to ask Him, “What do You want?” There have been days I felt like I was running around in circles, not getting anywhere, wondering where to go next, what to do. And I’ve wondered if God is running me around life’s round pen until I stop and recognize Him as my Leader. I can’t remember a time when I have been aware of Him giving me a series of directions. But I am aware of many days when I have tried to do this or that and I felt stopped at every effort. My computer wouldn’t dial out when I wanted to send an email. It shut me off just when I wanted to place a bid on eBay. I tried to put something together but it just wouldn’t work. I wanted to ride, but it was too hot or too cold. I needed to buy something, but the store didn’t have it. Have you ever had days like that? What did you think?

    I once assumed those things happened because I didn’t take time with God that morning. Maybe I was trying to avoid His guidance and He was trying to get my attention. Actually, I must admit I sometimes resist like a Jonah, and I’m thankful I haven’t been thrown overboard where a whale is lurking! But God has many ways to deal with a Jonah.

    Let me share a thought: if I accept God as my Leader, then I should start each day with that decision. I should take the time each morning to place myself physically and emotionally within God’s care and guidance. When I think of who and what God is, of His unconditional love and mercy, His great power and glory, His tender compassion and His great creativity that made mankind, then who am I to not follow Him? To recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to accept the leadership of this Triune God is the greatest act of wisdom on Earth. My devotional guide mentions waiting on the Lord. That means asking God for guidance, waiting for His answer and not letting impatience, insecurity, fear or pressure from others distract us from following Him and only Him. Through His Holy Spirit, which dwells within each believer, He instructs, comforts, strengthens and guides. We accept that Spirit’s influence and follow (trust and obey!).

    In Romans 5:1-2, it says: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

    Only within this act of acceptance, will I find myself standing beside Him, resting in His Presence and finding peace, ready to follow wherever He leads. And I believe that is what God wants.

(Originally published in the April 2006 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)

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