The air was crisp as I stepped out of the door. Although it was summer, the light of the early morning sun was obscured by a thick cloud that had taken up residence on my doorstep and the surrounding countryside.
As I walked along the driveway, I heard a rumble in the distance. Stopping to listen, I watched as out of the mist, two shadows thundered towards me. They slowed their pace and then stopped. They stood poised for a moment, their sides heaving. Looking towards me, one snorted into the air, and the other let out a shrill whinny, and then together they charged off into the grayness, disappearing from my sight.
I resumed my walk, marveling at the speed with which those two horse could navigate through their pasture with such limited visibility. A lot of their confidence came from the fact that they were familiar with their surroundings…they knew the location of the groves of trees, the open meadows and the trails that crisscrossed the acres of their home. The low-lying cloud that day did little to hamper their shenanigans because they were confident in their setting.
Fast forward a couple of weeks…
These two, wild and running free geldings and I have been spending a lot of time together. They are both two years old, and I have brought them in so that we can become familiar with each other.
My goal in training is twofold.
First, I want to get to know them…their personalities…what brings them pleasure…what causes them to be afraid…what natural abilities they have…their strengths…their weaknesses…their quirkiness:D All of this is important for me to discover, for each horse is unique. No two are the same:DAnd second… just as these two horses were confident and able to navigate in their pasture that morning – even though they could not see very far in front of them – my desire is that they will be comfortable and confident in my presence, willing to trust me and to follow my lead.
This doesn’t happen overnight. We need to spend “intentional time” with each other.
As we do, they get to know my voice, because I spend a lot of time talking to them. They also begin to understand the meaning of basic sounds and words – like a “cluck” to go and “whoa” to stop.
They also come to recognize the meaning of certain pressures that I apply to their halter. With a forward pull on the rope that is attached to their halter they learn to come forward. When side pressure is applied, they learn to turn to the right or the left. With back pressure, they begin to back up.
Once horses respond well to these pressures, and are comfortable and relaxed with me talking to them and rubbing them all over their body, I take their training a step further.
I attach a plastic bag to their halter (by this time they are comfortable with the sound and feel of the plastic bag all over their body). And I proceed to cover up one eye with the bag. First, I lead them, standing on the side where they can see me. Then I switch to their blind side, and lead them around the pen. We stop often so that I can rub them. During this whole time, I talk to them continually so that they hear my voice. I also make sure to remove the bag from their eye at several points, so that they can get their bearings and understand that this is not “permanent”:D
Once they are comfortable with one eye being covered, I switch to the other eye and proceed with the same process.
And then I cover both eyes.
As I lead them around the pen, I talk to them continually so that they always hear my voice. We stop often so that I can rub them, and so that at different intervals I can remove the bag from their eyes so that they can see where they are at.
And you know what happens?
They listen and they follow, even when they cannot see.
When I do this, the horses don’t “freak out” or charge wildly around the pen. Instead, they concentrate on my voice and to the feel of the pressure placed on their halter.
Those hours spent talking to them, rubbing them, and teaching them comprehend different pressures on the halter – when they could see – have laid a foundation of understanding and trust, which then enables them to be relaxed and confident in my presence…even when they cannot see.
With time, they learn that when we face the unfamiliar together, they don’t have to be afraid. Instead, it is possible to face the darkness confidently, because they have learned to trust.You know, as I read God’s Word and spend time with Him each day, I learn to hear His words of instruction and comfort that He speaks to my heart and my mind. I begin to understand the pressure that He applies at different times to show me when to move forward, to turn, to back up or to just stand, relax and wait patiently for Him.
Little by little, He teaches me…slowly building a foundation of understanding and trust…so that I will learn to depend on Him and be confident in His presence and with His direction for me…
Even when I cannot see.
Instead of relying on my own understanding of a situation, I can look to Him and trust that He will direct my steps (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
Oh how I wish I could say that in the dark valleys…in those times of my life when I could not see what was around the corner…that I have responded with the same confident trust that the horses I train display when they cannot see:D
In some ways, horses are a lot smarter than me. For when they cannot see, instead of freaking out, they calm down so that they can hear my voice and understand the direction that I give them to move forward, to turn, to back up or to just stand and wait.
Me…how do I respond?
Um, well…let’s just say that I have my fair share of bumps and bruises that have resulted due my “panic” or “I know best” response when I enter a situation that seems dark…unknown…and unfamiliar.
But I am so thankful God doesn’t give up on me, and that He has given me horses so that He can teach me a little bit more of what it means to trust Him.
For I am learning that whenever I enter a dark valley – be it big or small, pitch black or just gray, unknown and overwhelming, scary or silent – I am not alone.
God is with me.
And, just as in the past, He has been with me every step of the way, providing for every need and never leaving me, He will be with me in the dark valleys. The setting or the circumstances through which I am navigating may change, but God doesn’t.
He remains the same yesterday, today and forever.
The days spent hearing His voice in His Word and learning to follow His direction have laid a foundation of understanding and reliance on Him so that when I enter the darkest of valleys, I can follow Him with…
Even when I cannot see:D
As each day passes, I am learning that…
Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, because He is with me. His rod and His staff – they comfort me.
He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies. He anoints my head with oil. My cup overflows.
Surely His goodness and His love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23.