Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ask and Allow

There are those who believe that to work with horses you need to master them. They work on subjugation and intimidation. Some like me, ignorant or taught badly, learn to work against the horse’s natural character and individual personality. I can only say that I thank God I got into the hands of people who partner their horses and lead them with love and authority.

 Once such excellent instructor I had used the term, “Ask and Allow”. As I was riding with her one evening the words began to make sense. Ask the horse. Teach the horse. Allow the horse to learn and take in the lesson. That particular teaching has made a patient person out of me. It began to open up my brain to what the horse was struggling to learn. And it taught me to give him all the time he needed to learn it. Such as in collection, when you ask a horse to soften his neck, round his back and engage his hindquarters. These are all things a horse must learn to do to balance the added weight of the rider. Normally, a horse is front ended. Add a rider and he must learn to go forward from the rear.  To do this a horse must learn it, trust it and change. I must ride balanced, use correct aids to teach and learn to work with the horse.


I used to just get on and use my aids and expect it to happen. Okay, so I am not very intuitive! Horses struggle to learn and trust and must be “allowed” to do so in their own time. So as I ride I whisper this to myself and allow it to help me feel what my horse’s response is to my query. Sam, my Arabian horse, tends to run away when he doesn’t understand what is being asked of him. Or rather, if he doesn’t like what is being asked! I found that he was so unhappy and distracted by having a bit in his mouth I realized it wasn’t the type of bit he objected to. So I found a bit less bridle and there is joy in the camp. Even with this though, it has taken time for Sam to trust and to relax and to answer. The other day I saw him reach downward. He relaxed his neck, rounded his back and responded to my aids. Finally I was getting somewhere in the way I am committed to teach and learn.


This has had tremendous ramifications in my relationship with God as you can imagine.  I don’t think the “ask and allow” phrase had ever entered into my communication process. I am eager to do His will. I take the “command” and either run away with it or force myself through all kinds of anxiety. My head comes up, my neck stiffens and my jaw clenches to “Thy Will Be Done!”  And it isn’t from a bad heart any more than it is from a horse’s blank determination to thwart. It is from misunderstanding and miscommunication.


To illustrate this, I had an experience on a retreat that finally brought me to collection. It was a serious moment of enlightenment. God was showing me ways I related to my past that were very painful to me. He was showing me the difference between how I looked at that girl and how He did. I have never loved my youthful self but have always treated her with scorn at best, disgust at worst. All I ever saw were her failures. And in a blinding moment of revelation He showed me how He looked at my young self. Like the little lost lamb I saw her on his shoulders and being tenderly carried.  And I felt he was “asking” me to look at her that way too.


Right away I strode down the country road, hands in pockets, head hunched between my shoulders to make this happen, to obey. And immediately I ran into a giant hand and a voice that said, “Stop!” I bounced off this imaginary hand and right away I realized something epic. I felt like God said to me, “I am not demanding that you do this. I don’t ever want you to force yourself to do anything I ask of you, even if it is for your own sake. I am inviting you to tear down walls inside. I am inviting you to love yourself as I do. Dear One, I don’t ever want you to look at Me as a demand.” 


Right away I thought of “ask and allow”. I had to laugh at myself. God always surprises me. He is always infinitely ahead of me! So as I patiently explore my horse’s learning ability it effectively mirrors my own ability to accept God’s invitation and not His demand. The demand doesn’t exist.


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