A Walk with Willow
There is a secret among some equine enthusiasts who desperately desire to own their first horse. One is good. But two are better. Three will love you. Four will thrill you. Five is uneven. And, six will complete you…unless you have room for one or two more.
We already had five horses when Willow came looking for me. She’s a six-year-old quarter cross, (half Quarter horse/half Tennessee Walker) seized with several others in a serious neglect case.
Since she was strong enough to survive on her own, rescuers attended to the sicker horses, and let her go out to graze.
An unexpected email in my inbox asking if I might be interested in this black beauty peaked my curiosity. Since I didn’t go “looking” for her I thought it was safe to say this might be part of a grander plan. So, I put out a fleece like Gideon did in the Old Testament book of Judges. I asked God to confirm for me if I should attempt to take this untrained horse home. In my mind, if she let me halter her, and obeyed a few simple commands, then I had God’s “go-ahead” and Willow was mine.
She did everything I asked and I accepted her obedience as a big bold YES from God.
But then a few weeks later when it was time to transport her, she put up an incredible fight refusing all
attempts to load on the trailer. Three stressful hours later, with much persuasion, she finally submitted; but by then I was having second thoughts. The entire painful process left me walking on wobbly knees of wavering faith.
By the time we got home she had settled down, she unloaded gracefully, walked slowly into the round pen, and posed for pictures.
Then the rains came, the snow blew in, and the ground froze up.
By the time the ground thawed all that was left was thick, slick, mud.
I’m not opposed to suiting up in my outdoor armor…coveralls, neck warmer, insulated ski gloves, ear band, double socks, and muck boots but it was way
too dangerous to work with her. So, she stood her ground and I stood mine, squaring off like two gunslingers at high noon. I would move to the right, she would move to the left. I would move to the left, she would move to the right. I would reach for her halter and she would tremble and turn away.
One friend recommended a natural supplement that would help calm her…it worked wonders…for two days.
Another person suggested I ignore her, walk away, and let her stew in her own stubbornness. I did. She did. It only worked once.
And finally another friend said, “This might not work. You may have to admit it was a mistake and send her back.” Thank God He does not feel that way about me. I probably would have been returned a long time ago.
Since I am, at best, an amateur, I consulted a professional. The trainer recommended I be the only one to feed and water Willow so she would see I was now her sole source of survival.
Willow understood. But, she is very smart and by Day 17 she was only inching up to the bucket of oats. She shuddered at the slightest move of my hand as I made many attempts to touch her.
Remember, this is a horse I haltered and took for a walk the very first day.
Since I believed God had given me the go-ahead to bring her home, I assumed she would respond to my requests. I was praying the whole time, but while I was dropping to my knees, my mind was already outside in the round pen. And, I struggled.
One hundred days is the amount of time some of the Mustang tamers take…so that was the amount of time I told my friends and family I was prepared to train. What I really meant was more like two weeks.
I was okay not being able to ride her. I just wanted to touch her. Hug her. Kiss her. I wanted her to recognize this relationship was good and I wanted her to love me. Those were the words that came pouring out when I was right on the verge of giving up. And, my husband reminded me of the words spoken by Jesus, “…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
If you only read my horse stories you might think me a failure. I sometimes feel like a failure; well actually I feel that way a lot. But, then I go over to see the other horses and I am reminded to take my time and trust. As my husband gives me a leg up and I hop on our horse Judah who stands perfectly still out in the middle of our pasture…the wind blows, the sun beams down, and I thank God for the moment… remembering that in some ways Judah was once worse than Willow. It took me months to catch her and a couple of years before she decided she was as hopelessly in love with me as I was with her.
Judah still walks away from me at times…she heads out as far away as she can get only to discover there is no one out there who will clean those little boogie things out of her eyes, there is no one to dig the packed mud out of her big flat feet, there is no one to prick the ends of their fingers picking cockleburs from her mane and tail… and she returns. She nudges me with her nose, let’s me kiss all over her face, bears up under the full body hugs I press against her neck, and she fully submits to the fact that I am her Alpha.
So I decide yet again, to submit to mine. Every day I try to inquire of the Lord. There are days, sometimes weeks, when I don’t work with Willow. I try to be patient. She seems to be learning from the herd, so I let it be. There are other days when we accomplish what I consider to be serious milestones in her training. We are not all the way there. But the difficulties continue to draw me and I inquire again and again.
Willow is becoming more social, allowing others besides me to groom, feed, and lead her.
I’ve been up in the saddle several times; and Sunday September 10th, with the help of my husband, son, and a
dear friend, I rode her in a few round pen circles. You can tell she’s a bit confused but she remained calm. We brought her home in December and I didn’t get to ride her for the first (2nd, 3rd, 4th…) times until September. I’ve now fully accepted that horse training cannot be measured in hours, but understanding…hers and mine.
There were many late nights listening to praise music together. Mornings when all I did was sit close by and let her relax on my watch. I still find myself bypassing the prayers and running right out to the pen, anxious to see what we can accomplish. But, every time I think, “I’ve got this,” God reminds me that I train on his terms and his timetable. He’s going to do a mighty work in Willow. I can sense it. And, so, I wait.
“For the dream comes through much effort…”
“Breaking a pony is the fast way, gentling a pony is the sure way.”
~Grandpa Beebe, Misty of Chincoteague
“Ask often, be content with little, reward generously.”
~Jack Brainard, Legendary Horse Trainer
God often puts us in these places because no matter
how much we know, we still have to be reminded.
~Greg Mangrum, Farrier
How is God working in your life?
What is He teaching you?
What draws you to Him time and again?
Do you inquire of Him or go it alone?
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