Lessons from the Stable
“Hey look!” my friend exclaimed. “A herd of horses!” A pasture full of horses is admittedly a visual treat. For my friend, the sight was a curiosity. But all she saw was a group of horses grazing in the late afternoon sun. Except for a variety of colors, they were all the same to her.
Living at the time in cattle and dairy country, my perspective was different—much different. I worked summers at the nearby stable as a trail guide. When I drove by the pasture, I couldn’t help but take inventory, seeing who was grazing with whom and glancing at the stock tank by the fence to make sure it was full. It was habit. I couldn’t help myself.
I knew each horse by name and was familiar with their personalities—critical information as a trail guide. Inexperienced or fearful riders could be assigned to Bingo or Mac, a couple of big, gentle, dopey geldings. Novice riders would be OK with the bulk of the horses in the field. Rocket and Lightning I rarely took out on a public trail ride. As their names imply, they were more spirited and required knowledgeable riders, like us trail guides.
I also understood how the horses got along with each other. The nipping order applied on the trail as much as it did in the pasture. A fast-paced lead horse like Trigger could cause problems at the back of the line. Or an hour ride could take half the morning if unmotivated plodders like Shadow or Spook (so named because he was an albino) were at the front. Group them correctly and the drama disappeared. We could all relax and enjoy the ride and the countryside.
As I often worked at the stable alone, understanding each horse was also critical for my own safety. Ribbon and Candy were more bad-mannered, prone to nip or kick. Letting all the horses into the barn one at a time in the right order for feeding insured I didn’t get trampled in the rush. Knowing Queenie was a leaner when cleaning her hooves prevented my getting pinned against a stall wall. Taking mental inventory every day became habit. Did I detect a slight limp there? A runny nose? A weepy eye? A cut from a fence wire? I became familiar with every nuance.
Over time, I learned to respect and deal with each horse based on its own merit. Sure, I found some more enjoyable to work with than others. Teka was always a sucker for an ear-scratching session and Royal Gem enjoyed human company so much he’d follow me like a puppy while I did chores. With others it was a constant battle for cooperation.
Many an evening I’d sit on the top fence rail while topping off the water tank. The herd would gather around, jockeying for position, fascinated by the cool, splashing water. As a teen seeking to find myself, I’d wonder where I’d fit into the nipping order if I were a horse. Am I pushy or a fringer? Am I cooperative or do I frustrate those around me? Do I have bad habits that hurt myself or others? What do I do well? The herd’s interactions and sense of order was honest and transparent. Oh that my life and relationships were so easy to understand!
We find ourselves in God’s great pasture of humanity, but we’re not just a huge herd to him. Our Stable Master knows us by name and reads every nuance. He knows when we’re feeling frisky and when we’re off our feed. He knows if we’re leaders or followers and how to maximize our personalities and abilities. Question is, do we trust him or do we buck under his authority? He loves us and wants the best for us. His intentions are pure and straightforward. He won’t expect of us what we’re unable to give. Instead, he provides everything for us: a green pasture, a full water trough, a safe barn during life’s storms, companionship and even a good ear-scratching now and then.
That beats a brass nameplate on any stall door. That’s Good News!
– Sue Berger
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© 2008 One Pilgrim's Musings