"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

When the horseman feels confident that all the necessary groundwork has been done, it is time to get in the saddle. Whether the groundwork has taken hours, days, or weeks, the horse has been prepared for the first ride.

Actually, by this time the horseman has virtually gotten a "first ride" from the horse. All the things that he will want the horse to do when he is in the saddle have already taken place. The horse has accepted the human, learned to hook on, yielded to pressure, and moved his feet. He has been asked to accept the snaffle bit in his mouth and the saddle on his back.

The horseman does not mount as soon as the horse is saddled. Moving with the weight of the saddle, the snug cinch and flopping stirrups is unsettling at first. The horse must be given the opportunity to learn that he can move at all gaits and in both directions and still be OK. He needs to be checked out again on the basics before he is ridden: the rope, the flag, yielding the hind quarters, yielding the front quarters. The horseman works the horse again under the saddle until he is sure the horse is still able to yield and to resond with softness.

But it is not enough. He must now accept a rider, and then go on to learn even more about yielding. The human has a purpose for the horse, a job he is being prepared for, but at this point the horse does not know what that purpose is. Everything that has been done to the horse is for the benefit of the human, who desires to use this horse for some purpose.

Will he gather cattle and work them? Will he compete in team roping? Will he be a trail horse, a jumper, or a dressage horse? Will he merely carry his rider for pleasure rides, or might he become an Olympic champion? If he is outstanding at what he does, will he receive recognition in the show ring, or will he please only his rider, living forever in anonymity?

The horse has no way of knowing, nor need he know. The human will show him, step by step, what he needs to know to fulfill his purpose in life. In the horse's simple brain, he may never actually understand what he is accomplishing, but that is not necessary. As long as he trusts his rider and yields his body and mind, he will do well.

Not much will be asked of the horse on the first ride. When the human gets into the saddle, he sits quietly and pets the horse to make sure he is relaxed, not tense or afraid. When he first asks the horse to move his feet, he uses a signal that the horse already understands, such as gently tapping with the tail of the halter rope. It is not the rider's desire for the horse to buck. Hopefully, all fear and resistance have been overcome during the groundwork.

If the horse has a snaffle bit in his mouth, the rider carries the reins with much slack, so as not to confuse the horse at this time by pulling on his mouth. The first matter of business is to get the horse to feel comfortable about moving around with a rider on his back. The rider may prefer to use only a halter and halter rope during the first ride, to ensure that the horse's mouth will not be pulled on.

When the horse is walking relaxed, he can be asked to turn both ways, and to break into a trot or even a lope. In the round corral, he can't run away, so there is no need to pull on his mouth.

Very little is expected of the horse on his first few rides. It would be foolish to expect a green horse to respond like a horse that has had the benefit of much training and many hours under the saddle. The rider adjusts his expectations to the horse's level of knowledge and maturity. Mostly what he wants at first is a good attitude-willingness.

What is God's purpose in choosing us to ride with Him, in bringing us salvation and knowledge of Himself? Is it that we might have happiness in this world, freedom from the burden of guilt, and the material things we desire? Many Christians act as if this were so. But the Bible says that everything God has done for us is for His benefit, not ours. It is so that He might be glorified.

His purpose is not to grant our every wish; He is not a Santa Claus. Mostly what He wants is our willing attitude, just like we want from a horse. He has things for us to do. It is time to put the saddle on and find out what the Rider has in mind for us. Like the horseman, He may need to take us back to the basics, lest we get to thinking, "Well, I've got this God thing down pat," and then fall flat on our faces the first time He ups the pressure.

He never asks us to do the impossible; all His tasks are geared to our maturity level. Even a new believer can accomplish things God wants done. Do we always know what it is that we are accomplishing for God? It is doubtful. Our limited minds have trouble seeing the Big Picture.

Isaiah 55:9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

God might call us to preach, teach, or be a missionary. On the other hand, He might call us to be a godly parent, sister, neighbor, employer, or employee. Our task may put us in the limelight and bring recognition, or it may be something known only to God, or to one other person. One who desires the limelight may be asked to serve in anonymity, while one who is afraid of crowds may be asked to speak to many.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

God is always asking us to submit our natural desires to Him, to do with them what He will. He is showing us what His world is all about. It revolves around Him, not us. Yet the trail He has for us will lead to abundant life.

Copyright 1998

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