Since my mom first put me on her comfortable horsey back, my horse Zoey and i have had many ups and downs. All those years ago i was a disillusioned young adult, tainted by the world and the poor choices i had made. My mom put me on her back that fall day, after news of a dear friend’s death by drug overdose. She put me on Zoey’s back because she knew that this small act would be balm for my hurting heart. I didn’t yet know the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but i did shortly after. Since this first moment with my now beloved chestnut mare, i have come in and out of Zoey’s life, committing to relationship with her, then disappearing without even saying goodbye. She has given me both grace and trust, (with a whole lot of pissed off pony on the side!)
When i left my home, my parents and my sweet Zoey. I mourned her soft breath, and sweet cuddles, but i didn’t consider the fact that she might be upset with me for it. When i returned home almost two years later, Zoey humored me at first, allowing me to ride her with little sass, but that just turned out to be a honeymoon phase.
Within weeks of coming home, Zoey went from obedient and gentle, to the ultimate Miss Sassafras! It got to the point where i would try to get her to take a step forward and she would try to bite me! I worked diligently to perfect my groundwork skills, my riding ability, and to fix my relationship with my four legged friend. Unfortunately, we would take two steps forward and five steps back. Something had to give.
It wasn’t until one blustery winter day that everything came to a head. My mom had invited her horseman friend, John, over to work on some groundwork techniques with us. He asked me to show him how i lunged Zoey, so after grooming her, i whipped out my trusty stick-and-string, walked her to a clear spot in the arena, pointed, clucked, and even spanked the ground a few times. Zoey “obeyed” but you could see in her eyes, (and ears), that she was bluffing. It was when i finally asked her to canter (one step below a gallop) that the show was over. She stopped dead in her tracks and gave me the biggest pony finger you’ve ever seen! Ears pinned, whites of her eyes showing and a tail swish that could knock you over. I could see that Zoey was no longer playing the game. John allowed me a few minutes to try to fix the situation until finally stepping in. “Uh, i think you need to stop, Reesa” he said, “that horse does not look happy and this could get dangerous.” What? Stop? How could i? Wasn’t i supposed to work her around until i got her to obey?
I was completely and utterly deflated. My bubble was burst. In horsemanship, you are never to let a horse get away with blatantly disobeying you like that. Even if it means switching courses and trying something different, it is imperative to bring them back to a place of willful obedience. I thought that i had come so far with Zoey over the last 5 years, all to find myself back at square one. To say that i was humbled is an understatement.
Thankfully, i have a mom who believes in me. After John left she said, “You’re not gonna end on that note are you?” I looked up from my self pity “Uh … don’t i have to?” i mumbled, a little surprised. “Absolutely not!” My mom said with a smile, “get back out there and try again, only this time mean it… and stop nagging her!” Up until this point, i had never truly grasped how not to nag a horse. I would nag nag nag until i’d finally try to be firm and by then it was usually too late.
With a glimmer of hope, i haltered Zoey up again and walked her back out. I pointed. I clucked. I spanked the ground once. Then yes, i smacked her little pony butt with the end of the string and boy did her ears perk up! Zoey walked, trotted, and cantered all in perfect succession and in both directions. I had done it! We had done it. We could finally speak the same language. I can’t tell you how relieved and grateful i felt in that moment. After being so humbled to the point of wanting to give up, the tables completely turned. Something changed between Zoey and me after that experience and our relationship has grown so deep that there are no limits to where i believe we can go together.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 God says ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sometimes our weaknesses need to be laid so bare that our utter incompetence is the only thing that we can see. Only then can we look up to our Maker and say “God, i need you.” Only then can we experience the unfathomable grace, love, power, joy, and total blessing of true relationship with our mighty God.