We teach respect and good manners to our kids and our animals. Disrespectful kids often turn into disrespectful adults. Disrespectful horses turn into dangerous horses.
With horses, respect and manners are essential because they weigh about 1,000 pounds and I weigh—well, considerably less. If horses get pushy, people get hurt. Since safety is always first on our farm, horses must learn to behave when walking alongside their human handlers. Their shoulders and hooves must always line up with their handler’s shoulders and feet. Too far forward, they are being pushy. Too far behind, they are being lazy. Either way, they are not following their handler’s lead.
Twice daily, when walking our horses to and from pasture, we practice pacing. When we speed up, the horses must speed up. When we slow down, the horses must slow down. When we stop, the horses must stop. . . and wait. . . patiently. No head throwing, no fits, no jerking the lead line. And when we begin to walk on, the horses walk on with us, in step.
When our horses were first learning ground manners, any disrespect was met with an immediate consequence. The horse was made to back. Stepping in front of the horse with lead line shaking and stepping into the horse’s personal space causes the horse to move back. Backing sends a strong message to the horse that they are not paying attention and following the lead. Horses like to get where they’re going, usually to pasture. Such strong incentive and quick, firm interruption of plan teaches that following human lead is more desirable and wiser than following their own lead.
With repeated practice, our horses have learned attentiveness, anticipating and responding appropriately to each change of human pace. They walk in step with us, stop with us, wait with us. I am still amazed that such a large, strong animal willingly watches, listens, and obeys such small leaders. Even big beasts can learn submission when they learn it is in their best interest.
Well, I know how beasty I can be. I CERTAINLY know how beasty our kids can be! Unfortunately, our barn beasts have learned to walk nicely with their human leaders more quickly than we human beasts with our divine leader. I wonder how much backing we could avoid in our lives, how many less than desirable consequences, if we would develop horse sense—sensitivity to God’s voice and direction—never stepping ahead—never lagging behind—keeping our eyes and ears attentive at all times. What a pleasant walk through life that would be! Have we allowed God to hold the lead line of our lives? Or are we running around on our own, blind horses heading who knows where?
If we HAVE given God the lead line of our lives, are we walking in step with Him? Or are we forging ahead of Him? Lagging behind Him? Not even watching for His lead?
If we’ve given God our lead line, should we not expect Him to get in our face at times, shake the line, make us step back, and take a good look at the Real Leader? Question is, how much fight do we put up? How much time and energy are we willing to waste wrestling with the God of the universe—the God who made us, loves us, and desires to lead us into the rich pasture of His presence where we can run free?
Jesus said: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21