SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

The Other Beau In My Life

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in Blog, Food for Thought | 7 comments

 90 minutes a week spent learning about and riding horses significantly lowered daytime and afternoon stress hormone (cortisol) levels in participating 5th and 8th grade students…. The 12-week program taught students how to care for, groom, handle and interact with horses. Researchers surmise that working with horses holds potential as a therapy to improve mental health.

It was quite by accident…and rather timely…that I read this in a health magazine one week after I had started the very program mentioned in this mini report. Here I am, far from the 5th or 8th grade and I’m participating in a program that is reportedly helping to lower stress levels in children! Although I’m quite certain there are moments in my life when lowering my stress level would be welcomed, my intentions to participate in such a program were purely from curiosity—fed from my love for animals and my granddaughter, Laura’s passion for horses.

At the outset, allow me to acknowledge the infinite wisdom of those who, for decades, have walked the halls of their barns, endlessly mucked out stalls, habitually circled their arenas and faithfully fed, nursed and interacted daily with their various charges. I beg your indulgence and allow me the privilege of sharing from my experience—albeit extremely limited (to say the least!) and very likely to be short-lived.

I’ve learned—or perhaps I should say I have been reminded recently—that I need to “step out of the boat and walk on water.” To experience something new, something that will stretch my faith and demand growth, while at the same time, provide an opportunity to fulfill something I’ve longed to do. In all fairness, the topic was the pivotal point in a sermon, but I realized it not only applied to my spiritual life and growth, but my everyday living. It required a willingness to step out of my comfort zone and dare to do something different, challenging and rewarding.

Thus my attempt to “walk on water.”

Back of Beyond Equine Centre in Huntsville, Ontario ( is a haven for horses. It’s a place where the busyness of the world disappears for humans and one becomes lost in the world of horses and learns horse talk. It’s a place where several horses walk freely, uninhibited by fences as they interact with humans in a natural and God-intended way. It’s a place where voices seem to be quieter, almost to the point of a whisper, and appreciation of nature at its best permeates one’s soul.

I can’t begin to do justice to what I’ve learned from these majestic creatures that weigh 1200 pounds or more and stand fifteen or sixteen hands tall. I will say this, though, that as much as I love dogs, I can now understand the belief that horses have been man’s best friend long before dogs. I’ve learned, too, that they have a memory next to that of an elephant, yet can act like little children: testing, pouting, and wanting their own way. I’ve learned that communicating with a horse is best done with a soft voice. (As I suggested to my teacher, her comment sounded much like, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger [Prov 15:1]. She loved it!)

So how does one communicate with a horse?

Watching three horses in the open field provided the best lesson in understanding how they communicate with each other and with us. They use body language, or horse talk. For example, when they relax, they exhale a deep and quick breath through their nostrils…just like we do when we sigh. Their bodies will tell you when they’re tired or resting or needing a scratch or even if they like you. A horse will move its whole body if startled or just twitch its ears or tail as it talks horse talk to another horse. Although seldom audible, they will whinny quietly when they are happy…just like we do when we giggle or laugh.

As two other friends and I watched the horses and listened to our teacher, four words continued to surface: respect, faith, trust, and security. We learned that they were critical ingredients within the herd, and were critical for us if we were to experience successful interaction with a horse.

Despite their size and speed, horses are victims of prey and need the confidence that someone greater than they are will keep them safe, that they will feel secure. Only one horse can fulfill that role. Only one horse is the leader of a herd, the alpha, and it’s usually a mare. She is the boss—smart, caring and dominant—and demands respect from the other horses. A member of the herd may be at the water trough but will step aside and submit to her; if he or she does not, that horse is reminded who’s in control by a threatened nip on the fleshy thigh. As much as this might sound like bullying, it is critical to the well-being of the herd. They need to have faith and trust that someone is in charge, to take control, to lead. And yet, the lead mare is challenged all the time to determine how good she is in securing the survival of the entire herd.

Watching the principle of survival played out in the open field and learning some valuable lessons was fun, it was easy. It was another thing to put it into practise.

It was time to groom Beau, a twenty-plus year-old Pinto with beautiful blue eyes. It was time to be alone in the stall with this 1200 pound beauty, a pile of hay and a small bucket of brushes. I needed to claim the role as the lead mare, the alpha. But I also needed to be aware that Beau’s first instinct would be to test, challenge and determine if I was able to protect him.

Having learned the importance of letting him know where I was when I walked behind him, I kept my hand on his rump and stepped around the recently dropped evidence of a previous meal. [Although a horse has a large field of vision, his right eye doesn’t see what his left eye sees and visa versa, and thus there’s a blind spot when you stand directly behind him.] I worked the brushes on his body and legs while he happily ate alfalfa-mixed hay. He didn’t care for his tail being held and brushed—he needed it to keep the flies from biting him—and he politely told me by backing into the wall under the window as if to say, Enough. I complied out of respect…and besides, he was/is much bigger than me!

The next step in building a trust relationship was taking Beau into the arena.

I have to admit I had as much confidence as a child standing before English majors expecting to recite a Shakespearean sonnet by memory! In no way did I feel competent. During a session of learning to lead him to the right, I failed to appreciate the This-is-my-space principle and Beau reminded me by butting into my body and pushing me out of his space! You’re too close, he seemed to say. (Don’t we step back when someone gets too close to our face?) I had failed to acknowledge his space and it took my teacher showing me just how invasive I had been. But although I’d been too close, she pointed out that he was also testing my ability to be the alpha. He wanted to feel safe, secure, and he didn’t. He had no trust in me and thus no faith that I would be able to lead him from danger should it arise. However, by the time the session ended, I was able to claim my rightful position as alpha by gently reminding him with a soft verbal command and a gentle push on his chest to back him up when he had moved into my space!

Respect was paramount in building trust.

As you may have learned from my previous postings, I like to write with a purpose. So what is the point of my sharing this “walking on water” experience? Perhaps for you to consider just what horses can teach us. I know I learned the value of patience, practise and persistence during my dog-training years, so why not learn from a horse? Do we, in fact, have something in common?

As has been pointed out, horses give and receive respect, faith, trust, and protection. Do we not need/yearn for these as well? Should we not offer the same to another human being? I want Beau to trust me, to have faith in me that I won’t mislead him. I want to enjoy a healthy relationship with him. Likewise, I want people to respect me, to trust me, to have faith in me and believe wholeheartedly that I will do my utmost not to mislead. Admittedly though, as in the animal kingdom, there will always be mistakes, wrong turns and invasion of someone’s space. Times when trust is broken and faith vapourizes. When that happens, confidence is gone and a relationship can easily dissolve, along with any thought of security. But there’s always a new beginning, another day; there’s always another day in the field to start over again.

Our teacher said recently that it’s easier to train a horse than retrain it. No matter how lacking in profoundness that statement is, it is true. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” comes to mind. Is it not easier to teach a child God’s ways than it is to reach into the heart and soul of an adult who has been seasoned by the world’s standards? If respect is taught, trust, faith and confidence will result, and one will feel safe and secure.

Respect, faith, trust, security…all imbedded within a horse by its Creator. And if a horse needs this, how much more do we? Our world—okay, let’s start with our immediate world—would certainly be a different place if we were to learn from God’s majestic creatures and practise their principles as we interact with each other.

P.S. Another thought that continued to surface as I wrote is this…God is our Alpha. He is in control. He is the only One we can trust and have faith in to never fail us or lead us astray. We are safe and secure in His love. We never have to challenge Him for His position as Leader. And yet, how many times do we do just that, butt heads with the Almighty and refuse to acknowledge Him as Ruler over our lives?

Something to think about.



Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Susan Duke

    Good one Ruth……I envy the opportunity you had to “walk on water with the horses”.

    Hope you are well. I have missed seeing you and Doug and want to do something about it. “So many plans……so little time

    Love you

    • Ruth Waring

      Susan, it is always SO GOOD to see your name here. Thanks, as always, for your encouraging words. I wish I could do this on an ongoing basis. I have simply loved the experience and will miss it when summer ends and life returns to normal…until the next time:) Will look forward to spending some time together. How would you like a weekend here in the Muskokas? Maybe in the fall when the leaves turn?? Think about it and let us know.

  2. Robin Livingston

    Great post Ruth. It makes me think about what I might do to step out of my boat and see what God might teach me.

    • Ruth Waring

      Robin, it’s nice to see you here on my web page! As to stepping out of my boat, it’s been a great experience learning about horses. In fact, I’ve arranged for another set of lessons this month, which will include riding, with and without a saddle! Should be a real stretch for me! As to what is God teaching me…can’t put a finger on it in a simple word…maybe just to have some fun while I discover another amazing thing about His creation…and creatures!

    • Ruth Waring

      Robin…so nice to see your encouraging comments! I have to admit that stepping out of the box can be unnerving, to say the least! But worth every moment. Had a wonderful time learning the art of horse whispering. I’m such a novice, but Beau didn’t seem to mind. Will look forward to treading on water again next summer. Be blessed whenever you get your feet wet:)

  3. Trudy Chittick

    Hi Ruth – Yes, I can say now I have read your blog about training horses. You do love all animals and it’s nice to see that Laura takes after you. Nice pictures. Animals are usually easier to train than children, I believe. But then again, they [children] will test and challenge with their will. They still feel the need to trust, feel secure in the boundaries and protection we provide. Interesting. Do we let God be our Alpha completely? As for “getting out of our boat” and “walking on water”…the admonition from MBC’s well-spoken preacher, Dave Early, referring to Peter’s experience with Jesus walking on water…we can feel secure, protected and guided in the right way when we truly trust Jesus enough not to be afraid to share our faith and see what God can do through ordinary people like Peter, the fisherman.

    • Ruth Waring

      Hey, Trudy…welcome to my web page and my blog! Thanks for your insightful comments. I always appreciate what you have to say, especially on deeply important matters such as our faith in Christ. There’s no doubt that I/we fit into the category of “ordinary people.” But isn’t it wonderful…and amazing…what God can do with ordinary people like us. Always exciting. Always challenging…even when we get our feet wet:~)


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