I was not raised on a farm. I visited one yesterday. My friend wanted to show us her horse performing a figure eight pattern. I went along in utter ignorance. I was handed the guide rope for a pony and told to shake the rope if the pony invaded my space, and not to let her get too close to me. Getting the pony and the other two horses into their stalls in the barn was fairly uneventful. But the beautiful horse which was to demonstrate her abilities for us was 'feeling her oats', as my husband would say.
My friend led her out, and the horse kept wildly trying to do her own thing, breaking out into a short run here and there, and crowding her handler. I kept thinking about that passage in the Psalms which says (in my personal paraphrase), "Do not be like the horse or the mule which has to be controlled with bit and bridle. I would have you respond to my eye." Because the horse was so headstrong, my friend forced her to do boring stuff. Go left. Go right. Go left. Go right. Back up. Walk forward. Circle around. She said she could not have the horse do the figure eight until the horse calmed down and followed her lead. She watched the horse for 'softness' -- a responsiveness to what she asked of her. No rebellion in the holding of the head, no stopping when she said 'go'.
Even in the horse's 'bad' behavior, my friend would say, "She is so smart." As the horse responded without willfulness, my friend added other steps. Even as she exclaimed over the 'naughtiness' of this horse, she would express her love and admiration for this horse to us -- her expectation of future greatness. She wanted to show her off, but the horse wasn't cooperating yet. She would say, "I love this horse. She's so beautiful. When she's trained, she'll be amazing. I'll be able to put kids on her." You could hear the admiring affection in her voice, even as she forced the horse to do what it didn't want to do, and to not do what it did want to do.
It struck me that the horse's master had better things in mind for it than the things the horse was being made to submit to in that moment. She made the horse walk backwards to the barn, and the other experienced farmwoman who was walking with me made a comment about how calm she became. My friend said, "I've found that walking her backwards puts her in a better frame of mind." Do you ever find yourself being walked backward to put you in a better frame of mind? Go left. Go right. Go left. Go right. Circle around. She makes the horses do things they aren't comfortable with. Like be in confined spaces. They make better horses if they've conquered their fears, I guess.
As the farmwoman and I watched our friend work the horse, I asked her, "Do they ever get so good that they don't need the rope?" The farmwoman sparked up a little. "Yes. But I think it's very advanced. This one is too young for that. But they can be trained to respond to movement and signals. They're very visual."
When we went into the barn, my two friends were discussing the personalities of their horses, and what kind of training was good for which kind of horse. I didn't realize each one needed something different. There were charts on the wall laying out horse personalities, and what kind of training would bring each kind to obedience. I skimmed over the chart, and noticed among them a 'distrustful' trait. It said to be gentle with that horse.
My Father is gentle with me. He handles me with such care and skill. And ultimately, He's got a future far in advance of what I can see in mind. And His affection for me and value of me is far more than I have yet attained. He sees what I can be -- what I will be -- in His care.
One more thing: the farmwoman told me this was a horse born to breed. But it was born with some kind of deformity. Something to do with its legs not being straight. The original owner was going to kill it. It was a horse rescued from death, and cared for in love. And it was a horse whose legs were now fine. It was beautiful.