Is it ever okay for your horse to say “No”?

Not long ago as I entered one of our local horse emporiums a clerk called out, “Lynn, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I replied. “How can I help?”

She wasn’t sure how to interpret her young stallion’s response (or lack of response) from an encounter that morning. He was in the pasture grazing when she went to the fence and called to him. He looked at her but didn’t come to the fence.

She asked me, “Was he being disrespectful? Should I have gone into the pasture and schooled him?”

I responded, “What was your intention when you walked over to the fence? “

What do you mean by intention?” she asked.

Did you command him to come or did you issue an invitation? The answer to your question depends on what you had in mind when you got to the fence.”

I don’t really know.”

It’s a little difficult for our horse to give us what we ask for when we don’t really know what that is. If her stallion was given the command to “Come” and did not, then the right thing to do is figure out why. Was he unable to come (didn’t understand or lame) or was he unwilling to come (he just didn’t want to)? FullSizeRender (1)

Before calling out to my horses over the pasture fence I predetermine whether I’m asking them to “Come” or if I am extending an invitation to wander over for a short visit. There should be no doubt on the horse’s part. If I ask for their feet to move in my direction I expect hooves to start making hoofprints. If I’m just popping by for a few minutes or simply want to admire the beauty of my equine family I ask (invite) them over for a pet or chat.

There is no right or wrong answer to a genuine invitation. “Do you want to?” has no hidden agenda.  If the clerk was extending an invitation to her young stallion then he wasn’t being disrespectful, he simply giving her an answer. “No thanks, I see you, hope you are well, but I’m content right here.”

Ace, "Did you want me?"

Ace, “Did you want me?”

The following chapter is from “He Came Looking for Me.” It is the true story of Ace and Shiner, two horses who returned to me after nine years away. We sold them as happy weanlings; they came home as broken equine spirits. They live in the barn with us today, happy and secure once again.

Come unto Me

The secret of life has not changed since I wrote Amazing Grays, nor has the content of the important question we all must ask ourselves if we pursue a relationship with God. God is not about what; He is all about Who.

Not long after the Appaloosa boys came home I went out to feed one morning to find Ace and Shiner walking along the fence that separated their pasture from our backyard. I take care of the horses in the main barn and Baber takes care of the front barn and pastures. He would feed Ace and Shiner up front, but here they were.

I tried to spend part of every day with each horse, giving them individual attention, working on each unique relationship. As I considered what I might do with the Ace and Shiner that day, it occurred to me that I could begin with a couple of carrots.

Baber was just getting ready to go out to the little barn. I would be hard pressed to get Ace and Shiner to ignore him and come to see me at the backyard fence if he got there first. Why? Ace and Shiner probably wouldn’t come to me if Baber was near their feeder because they still associate blessings (food) with a place and not with a person. They think that blessings are only found at the feeder, that the important question in life includes the where, when, and the how of routine.

“Come unto me.”  Matthew 11:28

I asked Baber to take his time getting on boots and rounding up cat food before leading the morning parade of hungry felines to the front barn. Preparing for my foray into the pasture, I detoured through the garage to swap out barn boots for backyard shoes. I grabbed a bag of carrots from the fridge and hurried out the door to the backyard fence.

Ace and Shiner had moved to be in position to meet Baber at their feeder, ready for the morning’s provision. My first few calls to them went without any movement in my direction. They turned to look at me; they knew I was there. But they still associated blessing (food) with a place and not with a person. They only thought about the “what” and not the “who.” This is an area where there is foundation yet to be laid in our relationship.

I did not give up. There can frequently be a fine line between issuing an invitation and begging. I never beg a horse to do anything. Whenever I make an offer, there is always a limit attached. If it is not accepted within the established limits, the offer is withdrawn and I make a training note to address the cause for the refusal.

There is a radical difference between making an offer and issuing a request.

There is a radical difference between making an offer (invitation) and issuing a request. An offer allows for a negative response; a request does not. This morning I made an offer of carrots in return for Ace and Shiner’s presence and attention. Had I made a request, I would have been committed to taking whatever action was necessary to ensure that my request was complied with.

Christians often misunderstand the details of communication with God. Do you expect blessings to be attached to a place—your church, for instance? Do you expect to be blessed by following a prescribed routine? Do you attach more importance to the Bible than to its Author?

Do you concentrate on any question other than the “who” of life? If you do, may I suggest you reconsider? There is no security in the church building except, perhaps, from the elements. There is no security in the physical pages and words of the Bible, and no routine will guarantee you eternal life.

The only thing that matters is the God who leads your church, the God who breathed the words of the Bible, the God who created seasons, tides, and natural routine. All that matters is your personal relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our teacher. All are one. God is the only correct answer to this most important question of “Who?”  None other.

Shiner and Ace don’t enjoy eternal security yet. Evidence of this is their attachment to place, to the feeder, and to routine. Once we establish a right relationship they will begin to look first to me, ignoring the where, what, and how of blessing. Ace and Shiner will find true security when all they consider is the “who”—seeing only me.

Let’s go back to the carrot question of the morning. I gambled on the hope that I had already laid enough foundation with Ace and Shiner to stay at the fence and nudge my offer forward to where it might be considered a request. Having made this specific decision, I immediately began listing my options should the boys ignore my request.

We’ve been blessed with winter moisture for the first time in years, so the ground is muddy and spongy where there isn’t standing water. I only had backyard shoes on, not trudge-through-the-mud boots. If the boys persisted in remaining in the where of blessing, I would need to get into the pasture and create movement in their feet. The broadest outline of action began to build as I called again. “Shiner, Ace.”

Thankfully, feet began to move. Ace started to walk, not to me, but he began to walk. Shiner stood still, watching me. I called again. Ace turned and lined out in a direct path to where I stood at the fence.  Once Shiner realized that Ace was committed to moving, he also started walking toward me.

That was a relief. I was prepared to slog on out into the pasture and make sure I got the boys’ attention, but Ace saved my bacon. In the beginning, it looks like Ace is the one most likely to accept my offer of relationship.

They both liked the carrots. The rest will be an adventure and looks can be deceiving.

The past six years with Shiner and Ace have certainly been an adventure. The adventure continues!

Want to read more?

The 4 Basic Commands of Horse Training and Discipleship

How do horses teach us more about relationship with God – and vice versa? These three books walk horse lovers, owners, or trainers through glory of life with horses. Learn more about your horse as you learn more about the One who created you both.

Click title for more information. The why, the blessing, and the method:

Book 1 – Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace – Pursuing relationship with God, horses, and one another

Book 2 – He Came Looking for Me – A true story of redemption

Book 3 – Discipleship with Horses – Journey of Joy

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