This morning I was re-living how I spent my mornings during the months of May and June-babying a horse with an injury. The one horse that always seems to be getting hurt. He’s been snake-bit, gotten too close to a porcupine, and played rough with wire more than once. I’ve written a little about ‘Yeller’ before, he is a horse on my husband’s string of ranch horses-a string that is one horse short as of two weeks ago.
Without going too far back into his short 6 year history, I can reveal that this particular horse has some problems. If he were a human, we would call him bi-polar. Since he’s a horse, we will call him cowboy broke. (Which means, strictly speaking, that the horse has only been trained enough to use for work but not well enough to be trustworthy in any situation.) When we acquire a new young horse, whether started or not, it is best to take the time to begin at the beginning and bring them around to using for work at the horses’ pace. Some catch on quick and mature into good mounts. Some take longer. Ol’ Yeller came along quite well (once he quit bucking) until he had a run-in with a rattlesnake. Since then, he’s been understandably touchier, and needs quite a bit of groundwork and handling before works start. We like solid horses because we don’t always have time to warm up a bronc. We might need one to gather a first calf heifer at dark thirty in a windstorm, and no one wants to put up with a bronc for too long, anyway. But Yeller is the exception, because during our spring and fall works there are some rough days and long miles. Yeller can do it and then some. Plus, he’s one rope-savvy cowpony and stout enough to get any job done, start to finish. (When he is properly warmed up, that is.) My husband relies on this horse’s grit and staying power, and feels that it’s worth putting up with his quirks.
When works are approaching, however, we have to get Yeller up daily and saddle him and pony him and ride him and mess with him probably three weeks ahead of time. This is mostly because he can get fat just looking at a blade of straw and also, he is as cold-backed as a polar bear. And this fall, Ol Yeller might miss out on the works. Why? I’ll tell you.
We began our program with him two weeks ago, catching him and saddling him and letting him ‘soak’ under saddle in the beginning. This must happen several consecutive days before trying to ride this beast, otherwise you’ll find yourself looking up from the flat of your back. One day, my hubby was too busy so I went down and caught him. It took a few minutes, as he isn’t a big fan of his pre-season training camp. But once he was caught, his ol’ eye softened up and I saddled him. I’ve only ridden him two or three times, but I have dealt with him quite regular because I’m the resident veterinarian around here by default, and as I mentioned, he gets hurt a lot. I know that to tip-toe around Yeller will make him think you have a hot-shot hidden behind your back. So, you treat him like a plow horse and he’s ok. My movements may not seem cautious, but I watch him like a snake. I’ve seen how quick he is to strike with his front feet, and how little warning he gives before he kicks with both hind feet. He has never been spooky, in fact, he is remarkably sensible about slickers, dogs and chickens, ropes and suddenly appearing jack-rabbits. So I saddle him,and because I know better, I don’t cinch him up too tight and I let the back cinch be rather loose. Then I piddle around the saddle house for a few minutes.
He looked dove-eyed and gentle when I went to move him to a better place to soak. Five steps into our ten step journey, he changed his mind about everything and became a widow maker. He charged me, leaping up, then firing high with every jump, bucking around me in circles like a blind man without a stick trying to find the door. Then, he bellered and sizzled the halter rope through my hand, bucking hard as he could down the fence and through the branches of a tree. It was quite a dust up. I could hear the echo of the stirrups clanging together as he bucked his way past the corral, and out an open gate into one of our little traps (small pasture around the corral). I caught him, blowing hard, sweating and bleeding. Yes, he had somehow opened up that wire cut I had spent all that time babying. Here we go again.
This morning I changed the bandage on his wound. Then I wriggled one of my hubby’s old socks over his hoof and up around the injury. Then I polo wrapped it to keep the sock on. Yeller is very good at chewing the vet wrap off, but the sock he hasn’t been able to get through so far. I then put him in his stall and feed him, and he is so happy to be pampered that he looks at me with what I would say is a playful smirk. He knows I will be back to serve his every need and clean his stall every day, and I think it gives him some kind of sick pleasure to see us humans working so hard to get him back into riding shape, while all along he plans to try his rider like an old Will James sketch.
He’s a tough one. A tough horse, but tough to deal with, too. While he may appear to be made of gold, it is only skin deep, and the only thing that stands between him and a glue factory is the decency of those around him who still have faith in the glimmer of potential he has shown from time to time. I’m confident that even though my hubby and I are far from perfect horsemen, we have treated this horse with kindness and fairness. But it’s as if we have to argue with him every time to convince him of what’s right. Once convinced, he is as reliable as can be. But it never sticks. If we turn him out for three weeks and we have to begin at the beginning each time we need to use him. Of course, we could just saddle him, muscle him around and ride off, spurring when he bucked and lacing his belly with a quirt. But again, he would merely be convinced for that day. Tomorrow, he would be even more of a bronc. He’s a tough one.
There’s a moral here, folks. Yeller’s story serves as a kind of parable, and if you’ll allow me, I will explain. God loves us and created each one of us for a purpose in this world and in His kingdom. We come to him pretty raw, like a daimond in the rough. But His patience and kindness refines the junk away to not only fulfill our purpose but to enjoy Him along the way. Getting to that point with God is a process for all of us. But there is a point in it where the decision is made to believe God, trust Him, and be ready whenever He calls on us. It’s hard to explain in words, but it is a heart-change or…a transformation. A new birth, if you will. And when it happens, we never go back to being that raw material again. We can be stubborn or forgetful or even discouraged and want to quit, but because we are transformed, we always end up growing forward. The Mighty Hand moves freely throughout our lives and we look back seeing how He made something of us. Or, we keep getting talked into doing right and being right, whether it’s the expectations of other people or the culture or some religious list of rules. We are convinced of what is right, but we don’t truly believe it. So, when life happens, being convinced simply isn’t enough. Our genuine first reaction is to go back to our old ways. And it sets us back in the healing process, just like Yeller, and we find ourselves that much further away from fulfillment, wholeness, and victory. We haven’t converted into something new and useful, we are still the raw material because that point of believing hasn’t transformed us. In other words, we’ve only been convinced, not converted. We will never be able to trust Yeller, but because we hate to see him be mistreated or go to waste, we keep trying. He might never get converted into a trusty saddle horse, but we keep hoping. God does that, too. Only he knows where we are in the process of becoming who He created us to be.
Yeller’s goodness is only skin deep. There are plenty of times he wants to be good, but he always ends up reacting like the bronc he used to be. Obviously, it’s a trust issue. A faith deficit. I encourage you today, if there is an area in your life where you can relate to Yeller, don’t be like him for one more minute. See, Yeller always ends up hurting himself or somebody else because he just won’t whole-heartedly trust people. And that can be us if we don’t whole-heartedly trust God. Don’t wait to pray and let God work with you. Open your eyes to His love and learn to trust Him. I could convince you to do it…but I won’t. The only decisions in life that amount to anything are the ones we make ourselves. I know, it’s a tough one.
You can find more of my little anecdotes and plenty more pictures on Instagram, @makingahand. Thanks for reading! Til next time…