Dark Scary Places

Sonny and KnockoutI absolutely love spending time with our horses learning horsemanship!

I’m still not much of a horseman, but am constantly learning. I’m at a stage now where I get a big kick out of small changes.  Sometimes it’s a small improvement in an area we’ve worked on…other times it’s a problem that crops up and is handled using newly learned tools.

Last night, I trailered three of our horses to the farrier for hoof trims and shoeing. All three horses are accustomed to trailers and load very easily…until last night.

For some reason, when loading to leave the farrier, each horse hesitated at the trailer door refusing to go in. I’m not sure why…maybe the unusually bright moonlight made the trailer interior look darker and therefore scarier.  Whatever the reason, each horse balked at the trailer door, and no amount of coaxing could persuade them to step inside.

If this had happened two years ago, I would not have known what to do. Facing the same event two years ago, I would probably have tugged and pulled trying to force the horse into the trailer while asking someone else to apply pressure from the back end.  And who knows…I might fall into that same pattern next week…this horsemanship gig is a tortuous journey full of surprising twists and turns for both me and the horses.  It’s a lot like parenting.

Last night, though, was different. Last night, when the first horse refused to load I realized this was neither about lack of understanding nor lack of willingness.  It wasn’t even about loading or not loading.  In fact, it wasn’t really even about the trailer.

The issue to be addressed was lack of confidence.

For whatever reason, that particular horse on that particular evening was not confident about loading in that dark scary-looking trailer. His confidence had been replaced with fear…and it was up to me to regain his confidence.

Now, here is where it gets interesting.

His fear was rooted in the trailer and his lack of confidence was rooted in self. It had nothing to do with me, really.  He was not afraid of me, nor was he challenging me.  He lacked confidence in himself out of fear of the scary-looking trailer.

The solution, however, had nothing to do with the trailer and everything to do with me. I needed to get his focus off the trailer and onto me.  I needed to boost his confidence in me.  His lack of self-confidence needed to be replaced with confidence in me.

We took a few steps away from the trailer and spent about two minutes doing a few basic exercises: step back, step forward, right shoulder turn, right hind-quarter turn, left shoulder turn, left hind-quarter turn, back two steps, forward two steps, back one step, forward one step.

Then I led him into the trailer. No fuss, no bother, no fear…just confidently following me into the trailer to stand quietly while I closed the stall separator.

Then I did the exact same thing with the other two horses, with the same results.

It was wonderful!  🙂

I love when things work out so well.  More importantly, I love when I am able to read a situation well enough to know the solution.  And I love knowing my horses have enough confidence in me to follow my lead.

This morning I realized there are a few life lessons in last night’s events.

Lesson 1: When I am scared, the issue is whatever I fear combined with lack of confidence.  The solution is to move my focus off what I fear and onto Jesus.  With my focus on Jesus, lack of self-confidence is replaced by confidence in Him.

Lesson 2: Placing my focus and confidence in Jesus is best accomplished by simply obeying Him in small things…by following His lead in little things that have nothing to do with the big scary thing.

How does that play out in real life? Lots of ways, but let’s take one current event.

I think most of us are a little (or a lot) concerned about what’s going on politically in the United States, right now. Whomever any of us may have voted for and whatever outcome we hoped for, right now we have a lot of uncertainty as to how exactly things will pan out post-election.  There are a lot of unknowns, and it is natural to fear the unknown (just as it is natural for a horse to fear a dark trailer interior).

The solution is to move my focus off the uncertainties and onto Jesus. I do that by spending time alone with Him and by following His command to “Love one another.”  I do that in daily little things…by treating others with love, respect, and understanding.

As I follow Christ’s lead in these little daily things, my confidence in Him builds and my fear of uncertainty is replaced by confidence in Him.

Your thoughts?


[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]


10 thoughts on “Dark Scary Places

  1. Love the way you developed this, Joe.

    I’m not particularly worried about the election results; the momentum of a 240-year-old democratic system is pretty immense, and hard to overturn.

    My dark scary places are closer to home; as my body continues to fail me, it leaves me wondering, what next?

    The answer is, of course, that tomorrow will be worse, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I used to wonder how I would ‘feel’ in this situation, but the answer is blindingly simple. I don’t feel anything about it. It’s just what happens, and the minutae of dealing with it and still maintaining a positive attitude take all my effort. Tomorrow is a meal that’s not yet on the plate. It’s very Zen; all I really have is now.

    Faith plays a role, of course, but while people expect me to ‘cry out to God’, I don’t see the need. I’ve got this. God has enough to do elsewhere and I will not trouble him with petty complaints.

    • Thank you, Andrew, for bringing another dimension to the conversation!

      In planning this post, I had actually considered going a completely different direction with the “Dark Scary Place” being death rather than political uncertainty. From that perspective, one could see all of this life and the many times God calls us to follow him in faith and obedience as being a preparation to walk thru death with our hearts focused on Him and with our faith firmly rooted in Him.

      The daily approach to life you describe…the living in the moment…the quiet acceptance of something beyond your control while still pursuing a positive attitude and opportunity to be a blessing to others… I see all this as a very simple and very focused walking in faith.

      Blessings to you, my friend!
      joe recently posted…Dark Scary PlacesMy Profile

  2. Joe, this absolutely beautifully written and well thought out! I love how the Lord uses, yes even our horses to teach us what it is to trust in Him. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, so much, Judi!

      Yes, God often uses horses, dogs, or other animals to teach me.

      When I first started pursuing learning horsemanship, I had no idea how much I would learn about relationships, respect, trust, and living in harmony.

      Blessings to you, my friend!
      joe recently posted…Dark Scary PlacesMy Profile

  3. Wonderful post, Joe!
    And I too find that I struggle the most with feelings of fear and uncertainty when I’ve taken my eyes off of Jesus and focus only on the issue at hand.

    • Thank you, Amy!

      Yes, I often feel I have a lot in common with Peter when he walked on water, but then started to sink when distracted by the storm. Thankfully, Jesus is quick to hold our hand and lead us through the dark scary places.

      Blessings to you, my friend!
      joe recently posted…Dark Scary PlacesMy Profile

    • Yes…dark and scary, indeed.

      I am so thankful to know God has a plan and His plan has not been thrown off track.

      As the song says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.”

      Blessings to you, my dear friend!
      joe recently posted…Dark Scary PlacesMy Profile

  4. What a great post. I’m still breathing through fear with my rides on Tessie and love the reminder to do little things to build confidence. Part of my problem is sleep deprivation. She carries me faithfully into some beautiful trail rides and great conversations with my friends. Love what you say here: “The solution is to move my focus off the uncertainties and onto Jesus. I do that by spending time alone with Him and by following His command to ‘Love one another.’ I do that in daily little things…by treating others with love, respect, and understanding.”

    What a wonderful work of horsemanship you did to show your horse he could rely on you. Tessie used to be awful with trailering. She stranded me at Rock Cut State Park refusing to load. In fact that issue lead me to clicker training. A trainer arrived and asked if I wanted help. I nodded. He was big and tried to muscle her on. (You can’t muscle a fjord.) He asked for a shopping bag and snapped it. She hopped right on. So now I use the bag on a stick as my secret weapon if she doesn’t load. Lately she has been getting right on. I think of horse trailers are to horses as MRI machines are to us. Well, at least to me, since that tube terrifies me.

    Thank you for this post.
    Katie Andraski recently posted…When the Road Seems UnfamiliarMy Profile

    • I’ve concluded we can’t muscle any grown horse. When they’re young colts, we might can muscle them around a little, with great effort and limited results. Once they’re half-grown, that goes out the window. I cannot ‘make’ an animal several times my size and weight do anything.

      That realization was a big part of what led me to start trying to learn more about horsemanship.

      I still have a long way to go in both my understanding and my skill in applying techniques.

      Ray Hunt says horsemanship is all about timing, balance, and feel…but then he refuses to give objective definitions for these terms. I’m beginning to understand why. It all starts with relationship…and that balance starts with the balance of respect and trust.

      Thanks for sharing, Katie! I love hearing stories about your time with Tessie.
      joe recently posted…Dark Scary PlacesMy Profile

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