Spiritual Non-Fiction posted November 17, 2017

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Enjoy the Ride

by MelB

Story of the Month Contest Winner 

I'm the founder of Bridle of Hope, a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates abused and neglected horses and pairs them with broken and hurting women and children. Visitors are welcome to de-stress from the craziness of life, seek healing from an illness, trauma or abuse, or learn how to ride a horse.

As visitors came this summer for horse sessions, I spent time observing their interaction together. I witnessed two types of scenarios, which reminded me of parallels in our lives.

Some of the kids were scared as they climbed into the saddle. They hung onto the reins, saddle horn tightly and wrapped their legs around the horse's belly and gripped with all their might. Some held their breath, stiffened up their bodies and hoped for the best. After a few minutes, they relaxed some, but it was obvious they were still hesitant to trust this large, graceful animal. I think this describes our Christian walk down the path of life. We hold on tightly to the reins of our life, not fully submitting ourselves to God and His plan for us. We may relax some, giving God control of certain parts of our life, but we are hesitant to trust God with our life entirely.

Other kids jumped into the saddle, kicked the horse's sides, and pulled hard on the reins. In their brazen way of pushing the horse forward while simultaneously trying to turn in any direction, they aimed to take control. This led to a reckless back and forth, while the horse attempted to read the rider's cues and go in the direction deemed. Some of these kids ran the horses into obstacles or right up to the fence, forcing the horses to make an emergency stop. This reminds me of the times we say, "No, thanks God. I've got it." We believe we can run our own lives better than the One who created us. This takes us down a reckless road of life lessons, where things don't work out exactly how we planned.

For the kids who grapple with fear, my goal is to get them to take a deep breath and relax the death grip they have on the saddle horn so they don't leave with a sore hand. I teach them to release the grip on the horse's belly, because this will only make the horse uncomfortable and encourage the horse to go faster. When legs are wrapped around the horse's stomach, the heel of the foot is usually up and the toe is pointed down. I show them how their leg has lost contact with the horse in this position. I grab their knee and say, "See how your leg flaps like a chicken wing. You don't want to be a chicken, do you?"

I then reposition the leg and foot, showing them proper form with the toe up and the heel down. "This will also lengthen your leg, and keep your booty in the saddle. Otherwise, you will bounce out of your seat and go home with a sore bottom."

The ones who aim to take control are sometimes fearful too. It becomes: 'I'll control you, so you can't control me.' These kids have to be taught a slower, gentler approach. I tell them to use slow and smooth movements, not fast and jerky. "If you pull hard on the horse's mouth, you will make the horse 'hard' mouthed. We want the horse to be light on the bit and not hard and pulling your arms off. The same thing applies to your legs. Squeeze lightly, instead of kicking the horse's sides. If you kick long and hard enough, a horse will become 'dead sided'. This means the horse won't listen to you anymore. We want a light horse that responds to our cues."
I often have the kids hold the bit up to their mouth (I've never been able to get anyone to put the bit in their mouth), while I pull on the reins. I let them feel the difference between light and smooth movements and harsh pulling.

I often say, "Show a horse respect, and you will earn it back." It's my goal to teach these kids how to treat horses with kindness and respect. This transfers to other animals and human relationships as well. This also transfers to our relationship with God. If we'll take a deep breath, relax our bodies, relinquish control, and learn to trust Him, we'll find this gives us the best ride through life. We will hit bumps along the way, and maybe almost run into a few fences, but we'll be better prepared for it. As we learn to let go of control and trust God more with our life, we might even find we enjoy the ride!

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If you'd like to know more about Bridle of Hope, go to www.BridleofHope.org or find us on Facebook.
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