Ranch Life

When the Point Becomes Pursuit

By: Sarah Aydt

Ever feel like you just don’t get the point?

Or maybe you do understand the point, but you still seem to be missing some major part of what’s going on? This is the perfect description of me every time I’m asked to work with a horse in a round pen.

Many of you may not understand how to train a horse in a round pen and perhaps now would be the best time to explain this concept. However, since I’m still learning, let’s explore the concept of round penning together.

About a month ago, the Lord asked me to work with a horse in the round corral for that specific week during our Crystal Peaks staff horse class. Even though I work on a horse ranch, I’m still a relative beginner with horses.  Stepping up to the call made my heart alternate between excitement and nervousness.

Although I still had very little clarity as to why the Lord was moving me to choose this activity, I voiced my desire to Jeff, our equine manager and fabulous teacher. I did my best to explain what I was hoping for during class that day. I was guided to work with Little Bear because, as Jeff put it, “He’s a pro!”

Jeff was right. Little Bear was great in the round pen. The moment I took off his halter, he began to move with thoughtful purpose.  The massive buckskin gelding closely followed the wall while I stood in the center of the round corral. Working within my limited understanding, this was the first step of reaching the goal: to ask the horse to circle around you.

My hope was to encourage the horse to consider “choosing me.” This equine choice, or ‘join-up’ is the beautiful process of when a completely free horse chooses to trust, yield and bond with a human.  This is demonstrated in several ways, the most powerful being when the horse stops all forward momentum and turns to face you.  And then, with no more invitation than extending your palm, the horse moves into the center of the circle and touches your outstretched hand with their muzzle.

To be chosen by a horse . . . is a powerful experience.

It was only a matter of minutes before Little Bear turned to face me.  I watched in awe as his giant feet moved toward my extended hand. At this point, I thought the session was over. Little Bear had done what I had hoped for.

I turned to Jeff to explain my thoughts and request guidance with how to best use the remaining hour of our time in the round pen. He answered by giving me some ideas of what I could do to strengthen my new bond with Little Bear. I asked the giant gelding to change directions at a trot.  Each time he turned back towards me.  I quickly realized that there are many teachable moments in round penning. Finally, Jeff prompted me to request Little Bear to slow from a trot to a purposeful walk. He suggested I do this by simply taking a deep breath.  Much to my surprise, the horse DID slow down to a walk. It was a seamless transition from a trot to a strong walk all from a simple and subtle cue.

A major “Ah-ha” moment filled my heart in that same instant. The ultimate point of working in the round pen is to guide your horse to attune to you—and you to your horse. It’s through this process of learning to ‘read’ the horse you’re working with and encourage them to ‘read’ you—that communication in the round pen reaches its full training potential.

That is what the Lord wanted to say to me on this day. “Sarah, your purpose isn’t found in finding the right answer and getting the job done. Your purpose is found in the daily relationship of getting to know ME.”

What I am slowly learning is this: it’s within the pursuit to know God—that all His fruit through us—falls into the hands of those who are hungry.

As we keep our eyes on Jesus and practice following His lead, we will start to grasp His voice quicker and more quietly.   We will be watching for His subtle cues to ‘turn in’ and ‘join-up’ with His plan, ready to follow Him at any moment.

Do you feel like you’re in the round pen with God?

Have you felt as if you’re running in circles, looking for the right answer to fall before you so you can take the next step? Friend, be encouraged. Take a moment today to stop running and striving for the answers—and start to just pursue the character of God. Turn into HIS plan and HE will give you the next step. Look to Him for who He is—your God.

As you grow in your relationship with Him, you won’t have to run after the answers—instead—He just wants you to run after HIM.  The ‘answers’ you seek won’t feel quite so much like the point anymore . . . they will feel more like pursuing the ONE who already knows the way.