And Then There Is Gambler


In just about every clinic I do, there comes a moment when a frustrated rider gets an all-too-familiar “look” on his or her face. And, believe me, you don’t need a translator to figure out the thoughts behind that at-the-end-of-my-rope look.

“ I can’t figure this out. My horse always does this thing that sooo irritates me”.

Well, let’s just take a look at that. And I have the perfect horse that’ll help us do the job.

His name is Gambler. Now, at fifty paces, you could not image a nicer buckskin gelding living at the boarding facility where I live. Twenty two years old. Not a specialist at any one discipline. Just a good, all-around, steady mount for someone to ride.


Despite being 99% safe, Gambler does have this one little quirk that tends to melt the chips in almost everyone’s cookies. In the morning, when you take him out of his nighttime stall to turn him loose in the paddock with the other horses, Gambler will wheel away in a rather violent, powerful bolt and give you a loud squeal in the process.

Now, working with him to quit this silly routine, such as moving his feet around in some sort of “ground work,” at best has only produced that same studly squeal and bolt. Every time, he will stand for a brief moment as the halter is removed but then — party time!

No matter what handlers do, Gambler is poised, stuck thinking about the next card he is about to play. Frustrated with few options, the best distraction folks have figured out is to take a bit of hay, throw it on the ground, remove Gamble’s halter and then let him go after the hay (thus avoiding the violent bolt).

 I have been rather fortunate in the fact that  in the 900 plus times I have turned Gambler loose, he has only pulled his little shenanigans a half a dozen times.

Is it because he really, really loves me? Nah. I would wish that to be true, but alas I am not so egocentric to believe such rubbish. Truth be known, Gambler could probably care less whether I lived or died.  Or anyone else, for that matter.

Several of those time, because I was not fully engaged, and some for the simple reason that I was pushing the envelope to see how little it took to have him turn completely loose.

You would think, though, that despite this routine being pretty well ingrained in him prior to me working with him, that after “training,” Gambler would stop pulling these stunts. Nope.

The whole deal makes me smile. Although I do really like this guy, Gambler is very aptly named. He is an addicted, hardened, incurable gambler. What most riders do not realize is that horses, yes, even their own horse, are this way by nature.

What do I mean? It is this: horses are inveterate gamblers when it comes to getting what they want. Whether you like it or not, if a horse’s mind is not with you 100% of the time and gets “away” with something not to your liking, it sets up this “gambler’s dynamic” with you. He will start to calculate and think, “This is my chance to hit the jackpot.”

Meaning simply, “do what I want to do.”

That is called a “horse’s nature.” It’s not mean, malicious or bad. It simply is.

And the human can really be the one, at fault. You see if you are interacting with your horse in a way that does not help him – meaning teaching and enabling him to be with you with his thoughts – then he is probably going to be unsure and troubled because he is not at peace being with you.

Everything goes back to what the horse is thinking. When you lead or ride your horse, where are his thoughts? When something comes up that the horse is unfamiliar with or unsure of, what has he learned around you?

I can’t say this enough. A horse’s behavior is tied to his belief system. Where his mind is at, the feet will try to take the body there.

When you open the stall door to catch him, these incredibly smart, intuitive creatures are generally thinking about what they want to do, not you. Again, it’s not personal. It is simply horse!


Okay. I give.
After all this discourse, what you really want to know is how the heck do I turn Gambler loose without the shenanigans. The short answer is that I get him to let go of any thought save being there with me in the moment.

The better answer is; come to one of my clinics for a deeper, hands on understanding towards getting your horse with you.

You who know me are sure of one thing. On a deeper, more profound level, everything ultimately is this dance of life with being a child of God, even my work with horses. Before Jesus Christ finally ran me down, I was a cowboy who constantly gambled with Eternal Life. Getting away with this or that once in awhile. Most of the time towing the line, as I saw it, pretty well.

Then on that snowy night in the middle of nowhere Montana, I had an encounter with this incredible Stoavior, who has only goodness towards us on His mind. I have experienced the reality that salvation is not a gamble where we wonder whether we are going to win, lose or draw. No. Salvation is a sure gift from God. Our part is to receive and believe what Christ has already done for us. (He even gives us the ability to do that! What a deal.)

Our horses can and should experience a sureness around us. That no matter what, we have the bases covered and they do not have need to continually look out for their own well being.

So, my daily desire is to be continually looking to the One who stands in the round pen of life fixing it up, letting you and me find it, ever concerned for our well being while all the while extending to us Eternal Life through Him and Him only.

Would you like to do the very best for yourselves? Make your calling and election sure.

Would you like to do the very best by your horse?  Without bribery or coercion show him that you are a good one to hang around with. Teach him to let go of a thought that he might learn to trust you in all situations and work with you in peace and harmony.


Stop rolling the dice. Receive Jesus. Come to a clinic. Bet on the sure thing.

Blessings and Happy Trails,


  1. L. Davenport on February 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Another great one, Charlie! Amen and Hallelujah!!! Thanks so much for your wonderful musings!

  2. Cathy Jones on May 24, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I do not have a horse but I always learn something here. : )

    • Charley Snell on January 11, 2019 at 2:23 am

      Some diseases are best not acquired. 🙂

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