"The True Way"
The Round Corral ~ The Rope and Flag ~ Hooking On ~ Learning to Learn
Yielding the Whole Body ~ Blanket, Saddle, and Rider ~ In the Saddle ~ Use of Aids
Some Elements of Horsemanship ~ Distractions ~ The Quick Fix ~ Natural Horsemanship?
The Soft Feel ~ Spade Bit ~ Out of the Arena ~ Who's Calling the Shots? ~ Straightness

(last edited 3/05)


by Jan Young

What happens when the horse does not respond as desired? The human may resort to the use of fear, intimidation, and coercion. This may include the use of mechanical devices. The most commonly used mechanical devices are bits of varying degrees of severity, used on the horse's mouth to give greater control, or a tie-down or running martingale, used on his head to get a particular headset or to control highheadedness. A stud chain across the nose is often used with a halter. With the threat of pain or discomfort, even a poor horseman can control a horse to a certain extent.

There are two problems with this approach. The horse has a bad attitude, and the change in his behavior is only external.

Because of the pain and discomfort he associates with the human, the horse is fearful and exhibits muscle tightness. While the horse should respect the human, he should not fear him. Rather than yielding willingly to the rider, such a horse is always looking for an opportunity to kick, bite, buck, balk, run away, or cheat the rider in some way. This horse is not enjoyable to ride or be around. He is also dangerous.

External change of behavior can be forced on a horse, but it does not bring internal change of attitude. It is not lasting, nor does the behavior gradually improve as a result of intimidation. The problem is always there, and must always be controlled forcibly. If anything, the problem worsens over time, as the horse becomes more and more resentful toward the human.

The alternative to the quick fix is improved horsemanship, but this is time-consuming and more difficult. It requires the human to change first, before he can bring about change in the horse. By using horsemanship rather than force or fear, you allow the horse to think, to figure things out, to choose to go the way you want. By using pressure and release, you let the horse look for and do the right thing, rather than forcing him to do the right thing. You develop a trusting relationship with the horse.

Because human nature leans toward the quick fix, we find the same problem in our spiritual lives. Real change is difficult and time-consuming, so many opt for external change only.

Man in his natural state does not think he needs God's help to improve his behavior. He tries to change through self-effort, positive thinking, the humanistic principles of psychology, or other external devices such as rules and laws. None of these bring true and lasting change, because the problem is internal, not external.

Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"

The unbeliever resists yielding to God, but perhaps he would like to "be a Christian," in his own way. So he starts doing certain things, and stops doing other things, and thinks that because he looks like a Christian, he is indeed now a Christian. But without the inner change of yielding to God by repenting of his sin, his resentment builds. He sees God as a taskmaster, not a loving father. The changes he made will not last, and his real, inner problems may just get worse.

Matthew 23:28 Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The same can be true of the believer. We would like to think that the initial yielding to God was all that was necessary, and we struggle with the idea of continually yielding more and more of Self to Him. Self (what the Bible calls the old nature) believes that by imposing external controls on our behavior, we can bring about change. So we resort to legalism: a good Christian does this and this, and does not do that or that. For many, these standards define a "good Christian."

The old nature cannot be controlled by such devices. Externally imposed change is not true change but is only the appearance of change. While the behavior may have changed, the attitude has not. Inside, Self is as ugly as ever, and is always threatening to expose us for the "bad Christian" we really are and do not want others to see. Inside, we still have fear and anxiety, because the quick fix has not helped us to truly trust God.

Outer change may be easier, but the only lasting change is inner change. True change takes time and discipline, and requires continually greater degrees of yielding to the Master Horseman.

Copyright 1998

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