Have not spent much time lately with this horse of mine – though my heart yearns for time with her often – life gets in the way – and I guess I choose to let it. The maintenance of house – office work – yard – everything! How do I slow it down? Why is there so much to fill my time that seems to need so much of my attention?
Not today. Today, I decided to let stuff maintain itself and I went to follow my heart – to Shiloh. I wanted to try a new saddle on this horse, maybe this one she would be comfortable with on her back. It was wonderful – English type tree with endurance seat. Did the usual ground work, grooming and tacking – all those necessary relational steps before the ride. I finally was on this amazing horse and it felt good. But, it didn’t take long at all before I felt – maybe it was not so good for Shiloh. She began letting me know that a buck was coming soon and that this was not an idea she agreed with. Quiet her down – and quietly I dismount.
What, girl? We just rode a week ago – or was it 3? Years of working together and we are again at this place?
Ok – I’ll get the saddle you have been used to for so long. Old sloppy saddle on and a little more lunging. A quiet mount up. Now what? An apprehensive walk, and jittery trot. Really? How many times, in all our years together, have we not been here? Again and again the “want to”, or even the “try to” seems to have to start over. Shiloh – you did not do this the last time “we” were together – remember? That time, three weeks ago, you did so much better – you were willing and trying to listen to my directions.
I know – I know – I know, our ‘we’ needs so much more time together. The ‘we’ was too long ago. The ‘we’ is not soft and smooth this time. You do not trust the ‘we’, again.
You are such high maintenance! I feel overwhelmed at how much time you demand to have good ‘we’ time.
It is our ‘we’ that is really the high maintenance. Sorry, girl – that I did not maintain our ‘we’.
Yep – I get it again. The ‘we’ of me and Jesus needs sooo much maintenance time. Too often I choose the maintenance of other things. He is waiting for me in our ‘we’.
Like Shiloh, I get a little apprehensive, a little jittery. “Jesus, I don’t have a feel of You? I can’t find the ‘we’.” Umm – when was the last ‘we’ again? A few days ago? I don’t recall – let me check my journal. Oh no – how can we be ‘we’ when it has been that long?
He waits. He knows I need high maintenance. He actually made me high maintenance – because He so enjoys the ‘we’.
Shiloh – you were made a high maintenance horse – so I could feel the longing of the ‘we’ with my Jesus.
It’s a good thing to be high maintenance – so we can be WE.
The horses were in the paddocks, sharing their tails to help with the flies on each bothered face. I walked to the fence just to watch – to observe their beauty and enjoy the feel of their presence.
My “little” girl, Destiny, came right up – nose to my face – to smell – to touch – to be. She loves the time together – just me rubbing her face – allowing me to scratch all those places she cannot reach. Then her mama comes and enjoys the attention time, too. Beniah – he knows me a little but being an in-charge type of horse he had to check me out. He too enjoyed the smelling of my face – the massaging of my hands.
But not my Shiloh – my eye would catch her watching – was she wondering if it was worth the try? It would feel good to be cared for – but did the risk seem too high? Would she dare to think of enjoying something that could be enjoyed? She would need to let her guard down to get to the enjoyment. I do not know what goes on in that untouchable head of hers – but I do know I so want her to enjoy just being with me and letting me enjoy her.
And again – I hear the heart of my Father saying “I know how you feel”. “I long for that always with you.”
And again – I am reminded that a horse can reflect the one who trains them, who cares for them, who wants their time together to be enjoyed by both.
I smile as I watch her watching and thank Jesus for the insight of His invitation to me again – to just enjoy our time. I long to let go of whatever holds me back from all He has for me to enjoy.
Do I dare look up? Really? She is moving toward the fence – meandering in my direction. She hesitates about 4 feet away – I would have to reach to touch and I know that reach would push her away. I just relax and hold my arm out to the side. I am inviting. She can choose to accept the touch – the smelling – the enjoying.
I wait. Hardly daring to breathe. I wait and hope. There was a little try to turn the head – but quickly she pulls it back from affection. Guarded. She was struggling with letting go and just enjoying the together. Yea girl – I so understand.
Then another turn of the full neck and the head and the touch – the smell. I do not push into the touch but I so want to. I got the ‘try’ from her. I smile and enjoy her attempt to enjoy.
That’s all I ask of her – today that is all the “try” she can give. Even with many years together, small try-steps are huge in my heart for her.
And again I feel Jesus say – “I agree”.
And I smile – enjoying His enjoying of me trying.
Roxanne Van Riessen
How can you be struggling with emotions that are sooo opposite and tear at your heart going different directions? The push and the draw at the same time . . .
He is drawing me – to a deeper place of loving Him – to a place of keeping Him, my God, higher – to a trusting place. He is tearing away that thing that is too high in my heart. He was answering a prayer – a prayer I thought would be a wonderful journey of having Him highest in my heart. Not knowing the tearing would need to be a part. I was in the RoundPen with my Father and He was pushing me away from that too-high thing and drawing me into Him as I walked the pasture, desperately needing to explore this turmoil of mixed feelings.
Destiny was created to be a leader – someday. Still in training under the authority of another mare. She was given an amazing leader to learn from – Shiloh is gentle with those needing security and strong with those needing better boundaries. Destiny continually tries pushing this lead mare, but is again and again pushed by Shiloh – only to draw her back into the herd under Shiloh’s leadership. In horse language and prey herd dynamics the lead horse will push those under her to establish her role. Those under her will challenge that pushing – displayed in body bend, high-headedness, backend turned in towards leader, tail sticking out. Destiny can show submission to that leadership in only one part of her body, but as a good leader, Shiloh will recognize those parts that are not yielded – not whole-hearted. Destiny HOPEs that Shiloh WILL catch all those places of not submitting and be pushed by Shiloh consistently and with confidence and strength until all of Destiny is yielded to her leadership. Then, and only then, will Destiny fully submit because she can now fully trust Shiloh to guide and protect all of her.
And now it was our time. I am the one pushing. I am the one drawing. Destiny was beautiful as she trotted around high-headed. But in leadership I will push her forward – away from her high-headed thoughts – into the quiet draw of following with her whole-heart.
Taking her away from her herd was the first step. Into the RoundPen together – the relational work begins. Meeting Destiny’s every leadership challenge with my soft request of the draw. When my draw was ignored I give a little push – a push to lead forward – away from her high-headedness. When Destiny’s backend turned a challenge towards me in her “I don’t think so” language, my whip would gently twirl in “I saw that challenge and – I know so” response. I knew what was best for her to settle. I wanted to draw her into the trusting of my leadership. I quietly and consistently pushed her to this place of trusting – knowing that this place would help her be ok with all of life. But also knowing – she would challenge me often in this place. So I stay ready to push to draw into trust.
And … here I am. He is pushing me to go forward. Forward away from my high-headed thoughts. Forward with my heart tearing. Drawing me into His heart. No one to soothe the ache – except the One drawing my whole heart.
In the RoundPen with my Jesus. Experiencing His soft, strong, consistent push into His draw of trust. I have been given an amazing Leader – pushing my whole heart.
Now – when I go into the round pen with my horses – it will be with a deeper understanding of their struggle. As they challenge the push. As they find trust in the draw.
I went out to the pasture with the class to halter Destiny. On my way down, I felt a hint to get Lakota. Lakota was below the dam and as I came around the pond, that silly horse was right up against the fence standing under the trees. The horses have a tendency to say “Hi” to the neighbor horses and Lakota, being the ‘guardian’ of the herd, thought it best to get directly in the middle of things to guarantee that all was secure.
He glanced at me and offered a little nicker. How fun – he’s saying “Hi” to me! I went to love on him and on approaching, realized he was stuck–and stuck good! That “hi” was really “help!” Thick vines, wrapped around his front and back legs, held him prisoner. How in the world did he get in there? Puzzled by the challenge at hand, I was intrigued by Lakota’s quiet resilience. In approaching him, I anticipated some sort of quick movement – a panicked flight – a struggle to break free. However, he showed no signs of stress – sweat nor panic. He just waited – with seemingly a patient confidence in my ability to help him.
I tried to trace the vines to their beginning or end in order to pull them out – a bit like untangling last year’s wad of Christmas lights – with no end in sight. They were too large to break and too tangled to separate. I looked up the hill for the students; hoping one of them could get the nippers. Unfortunately, they were already just tiny silhouettes marching up the hill, into the paddocks to get their horses ready for class. It was up to me to struggle through this challenging scary mess with a #1000 horse. Lakota stood quietly watching … waiting on me.
With knowing I just had to ‘gitter dun’ I looked up and asked for Help. I stepped in to evaluate – fear trembling in my heart but voice and hands steady. Lakota needed me. I rubbed Lakota’s strong, still frame, my warm voice assuring him I would rescue him from this stuck place. Meanwhile, I anxiously wondered when his panic would begin to set in. Yet he stood quietly … and he waited.
I cracked a small tree so he would be able to step forward after I freed each and every leg. He just kept nudging his nose closer to me. I could feel his warm breath on my neck. I was his only hope in this stuck place, and he wanted me near.
A deep breath – the resolve to go in … the real work began. First, I tested his response by picking up his front leg and gently setting it down in the exact same place; he showed no resistance, no panic. So I rubbed him again as I moved to free that front leg. He fully yielded to me, so willing for me to pick up and place the hoof where I thought safest and best. I paused – waiting again for a sudden bolt, Lakota thinking he was finally free. No – he just waited.
I crushed a large vine under my foot to clear a path, hoping he would step over, but instead he whipped his tail back and forth with fierce determination. This is what I anticipated, he was upset and I braced myself for the worst. But no – there was no attempt to move? Lakota was simply telling me that his feet weren’t the only things stuck! His tail was wrapped in brambles. As if the vines weren’t obstacle enough, I had to go around the brambles to free his tail from the thorny rose brush. He took a step forward trying to follow me, so I put my hand on his chest – he obeyed and waited. After untangling his tail from those persistent brambles, I circled back around to resume the detailed work of untangling each stuck leg.
And … Lakota quietly waited.
I yanked hard at a vine under his belly and pried it loose enough to step on, so that he could step over it. I freed each back leg from another thick vine. All the while desperately hoping Lakota would continue to trust until he was completely free. Please – no panic into disaster before the final leg was out. I asked again for the Help needed. Lakota began to sense the beginning of his long awaited freedom, I could feel it. But instead of pushing forward on his own – he waited for me to give him the queue for each movement needed. He turned his head to watch me free him.
Finally, it was time to finish this horrendous task. Stepping on the smaller vine, pulling the larger toward me so it wouldn’t interfere with his forward motion, I opened the way for him to step forward.
And … Lakota quietly waited.
Instead he bent his head toward me, nuzzled me with his muzzle for assurance, and waited. What was he waiting for? What was I missing this time? Everything looked open and a way was made.
Oh my! This horse! My heart didn’t know how to feel! Really? This horse was waiting for me to TELL him to go forward. He wanted to know from me that it was ok. Even though the way looked open – he was waiting for my queue to give him permission to go forward. I did not tell him to go forward – I only had opened the way. What a hilarious picture this must have been. I raised my other leg so I could free one hand to tap him on his barrel, encouraging him to step out of this stuck place. He softly listened to that prompting and carefully took each step, sensitive of possible snags. He nuzzled me one more time, his warm breath sighing heavily, and trustingly stepped out of this stuck place.
When free, he stopped, checked back with me – to see if I was ok? Then Lakota slowly, peacefully walked forward – it was no big thing to him.
WOW! I was in awe of this horse that could trust so deeply, and wait so quietly as I guided each step out of an impossibly stuck place.
Walking up the hill, thrilled and exhausted, my heart surrendered humbly to my Jesus. Yet again and without fail, He touched my heart with a horse.
In tired, teachable tears I asked my Helper- “When I feel stuck, help me to wait – trusting You. Wait for You to place each step where You know best. Wait for You to free every part of me that is stuck – no panic, no stress. Wait for You to untangle all my messes. Wait – even though the way seems open, wait for you to give the queue to walk through the opened way. Wait for only You to set ALL of me free.”
On His trail – Roxanne Van Riessen