An incredible gray thoroughbred that had been ruled off of the racetracks of Europe, this horse was a savage to ride and even a greater threat to any horse around him. As far as he was concerned, anything within 10 yards was fair game to kick, bite or both in one swift, merciless motion. Any rider on his back had to be very present every moment with this horse to keep things right side up.
It was a particularly painful lesson I learned the hard way.
You see, during those days, years back, when I worked at San Luis Rey Downs, Kuwait Tower was in the stable of horses I was riding. One morning, instead of working him first, I decided to gallop him last. Well, by the time I got on his back, I was a little worn out from the previous seven, all spoiled to one degree or another. Bottom line, when I started to ride Kuwait Tower, I was not fully engaged mentally with him.
As we came up on the track, Kuwait Tower took a great leap to the left to go after another horse. I went flying off to the right and, before I hit the ground, he kicked me twice, breaking several of my ribs and tearing my diaphragm loose. To make matters way too interesting, my right boot got hung up in the iron and, soon, we were headin’ down the track 9 – O with me on my back and Kuwait Tower’s hind legs on either side of my face.
To this day I have no idea how I came loose, but somehow, miraculously, my boot came out of the iron. As far as I am concerned, an angel or two, maybe several, intervened on my behalf.
I can laugh about it today. You know that a cowboy loves a good wreck as long as it is somebody else’s. However, thinking about the morning, I find a principle here that comes directly from the Lord Jesus Christ and applies well to our horsemanship.
When Christ walked the earth a little over 2000 years, bringing the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, He said often to the crowds “Repent.” Now, today, most everyone looks at that word, “repent,” in the light of stopping whatever “bad thing” you are doing and replacing that behavior with some “good thing.”
However, that is not what Jesus was getting at. What He was saying is this: “Think about these things” or “Think differently about what you may be thinkin’.” In other words, if what you are thinkin’ or how you are thinkin’ isn’t workin’, then let go of that thought and get a new one.
Jesus was, of course, speaking in the context of Father God reconciling His creation to Himself with the ultimate intent that the righteousness, peace and joy, which so many of us want, will prevail in and through all creation, including those of us with our horses.
As humans, we are led, governed and ruled by our thoughts. We have the ability to choose what we think. Those choices can lead us into turmoil or peace. Believe it or not, it is very much the same with horses. They have a thought process; they have the ability to choose a thought. Now, they do not reason as we do nor do they enjoy the same emotional realm. However, what they can do is “repent,” meaning they can let go of one thought and replace it with another.
Unlike humans with our many choices, the thought process with horses usually boils down to one of two choices. Yet, whatever a horse does decide to do, he will accomplish it. It doesn’t matter if he has only one eye and three legs. If his mind is made up, a horse will make every attempt to follow through. It is a fact that where a horse’s mind goes, the feet will follow.
The horse can find peace and quietness when it lets go of a troubling thought for one that brings him peace. Conversely, when they let go of a peaceful thought for a troubling one, all hell can break loose.
In this, horses are not unlike us. If we have not acquired some mental discipline regarding the little things in life, then we have set ourselves up for a meltdown when something major confronts us.
As the horse learns to let go of a thought through benevolent guidance, we, as humans, often need the benevolent wisdom and understanding of someone else to help us let go of a thought and take up a better one.
Now, the beautiful insight to apply to our horsemanship is this: Jesus came down to our level so we could get to His. So, the best attitude to have with our horses is to discover where the horse is at and start there. If we do this, going through the process with patience, good observation and direction, the horse will usually get on our page willingly. Said another way, he will start to think in a way that partners with our “good deals” and requests.
I do not intend for this process to be entirely simplistic. For the human, it can be rather complicated and certainly require wise third party input. For the horse, it is an uncomplicated process, if we present it in the proper manner. If we ride roughshod over our horses, driving them instead of teaching, then they will almost certainly shut us out of their thoughts.
Again, in other words, it boils down again to answering the question, “What do you have to offer your horse?
To this day, I have never forgotten the fact that I failed to get present in the moment with Kuwait Tower. Believe me, I have never made that mistake since. Rest assured, I have made plenty of other mistakes but whether it be horse or human, I engage both by intentionally letting go of thoughts that are not pertinent or present. I set them aside so that I can more fully develop a relationship that has meaning and, hopefully, purpose.
Blessings and Happy Trails,