Sweetwater Youth Ranch




A hush came over the crowd as we all anticipated what was about to happen. The gate opened and the thundering sound of 28 hooves came bursting onto the arena floor. The sound alone stirred an unexplainable excitement in the souls of the horse-loving crowd as the animals galloped in unison and in sync with the rhythm of the music around the edge of the arena.

They continued for the length of three or four songs until once more the gate opened and a lady donning English riding attire and a gentleman sporting leather chaps and cowboy hat entered. Before the gate closed, five of the seven horses exited. The two left behind—not skipping a beat—continued to gallop in unison as if the others hadn’t left. Half a song later, one of the horses turned 180 degrees and continued galloping in the same gait but in the opposite direction. Neither horse seemed confused or even affected by the change. Along with 2000 other spectators, I was thoroughly captivated!

That’s when I knew two things: these horses were not wild and they were obviously not following each other. I tried to see cues but, unless you knew exactly what to look for, cues were not obvious. This continued for several minutes, and finally the finale came when they each ceased forward motion, turned to face their master with ears forward and both eyes focused, and each ran to its own master. With a multitude of distractions these horses only had one thing in mind: obeying the will of their master.  

This was my first encounter with natural horsemanship. I had heard the term before and understood it to be a “mystical horse whispering” kind of thing, but honestly, I had no idea what it really was. That was the reason we were at this event with our daughter’s 4H club, to learn about it. At least, I thought that was the only reason until the horseman began to talk about relationship. That’s when I knew the real reason I was there.

You see, our pastor had been teaching a series called “It’s Not about Religion, It’s about Relationship” and even though I had been a Christian for over twenty years and had experienced the good hand of the Lord on me, I knew deep down inside my relationship wasn’t where it should be. I guess you could say I was in need of revival.

Pastor would say, “If you don’t hear anything else I say, hear this—don’t miss God!”

I couldn’t shake those three words. I didn’t want to miss God or anything about him! I couldn’t bear the thought of looking back years later realizing I had missed God because I was too prideful, negligent, or stubborn. I prayed and asked God to reveal himself to me in such a way I couldn’t possibly miss him!

That is exactly what he did in a way I couldn’t possibly miss and in the least expected place—a horse event! Not a church-related activity, not a crusade or revival, but at a horse event with over 2000 horse people!  

As the day went on we learned about natural horsemanship and how to gain a relationship with our horse. The horseman talked about the dynamics of the herd, how relational horses are, and how respected leadership is within the herd. He told about the horses’ ability to effectively see in both directions at once. One eye focused on whatever is vying for his attention while the other searches for a way out if he needs to protect himself, or the better choice—on the alpha whom he trusts.

To demonstrate the process of gaining this relationship, he used one of his own horses, a different one than the one he used in the beginning of the event—I believe to prove this method works across the board with all kinds of horses.

He explained that understanding their nature, the way they perceive things and how they communicate with each other is foundational to the way we establish our own communication with them. He explained the phases of relational development comparing it to the process of going from kindergarten through college. Learning and discerning responsibility, testing, moving forward, holding back, and removing aids (rope and halter) along the way with the final test—the truth of the relationship—willing obedience with the complete removal of all attachments.

The whole demonstration was very entertaining and informative, but when he came to the part where he took off the attachments, I expected the horse to hesitate because of the unfamiliar surroundings and ALL THOSE PEOPLE, but he didn’t hesitate, not in the least. The response of that magnificent, wild-at-heart creature was immediate, and with both eyes, his answer to every command was “As you wish, Master.”

My heart was stirred already but when the horseman mounted bridle-less and rode bareback—completely balanced and in sync as if they were one—I knew what I was seeing was more than what I was watching. God was showing me what he wanted from me—two-eyed trust. I heard him say, “You are easily distracted and often trust your instinct over me.”

I pondered this thought realizing even though I was consistently giving him one eye—I was consistently reserving the other for my own judgment, my own control, my own way. I hadn’t really realized it before and now that I did, I knew he was expecting a response. Still, I began to reason with myself. I’m faithful to church, faithful to serve, faithful to my husband, and committed to being a good mother. I don’t have any “in your face” sins like abusing drugs or alcohol, I don’t watch “R” rated movies, I don’t even cuss (well, maybe a tiny little word every now and then—my mama had the same word. Yes, I just blamed my mother). Reasoning myself into a corner, I knew what conviction felt like and more than anything I wanted what I had just witnessed—unbridled trust. So my heart responded with the only appropriate response for my Creator and Redeemer, “As you wish, Master.”



Two new journeys began that day. A journey of learning horses in a way I had never imagined possible, and a renewed, refocused journey of learning what it really means to put both eyes on my Master.

Both drew me to God in a way I’d never before experienced. I’m sure you’ve heard you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Well, you can if you make him thirsty first. Searching for validation for the metaphorical insights that seemed to be at every turn gave me an insatiable thirst for the Word like I’d never known. The Holy Spirit seemed more real and alive, guiding me to scriptures I’d never seen before. It was like an adventure! Matthew 7:7 came to life: “Seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” And Job 12:7, “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee.”

I have to admit that for a while I felt a little special that the Lord would show me these things, but soon I discovered a whole host of people using horses to increase their faith and spread the gospel. Still, I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to experience God’s love in this way, and it has been such a blessing and pleasure to be able to write these insights down for others. My hope is to encourage as I have been encouraged and to inspire as I have been inspired, but, most importantly, to point to my Master and say, “He did it!”

One thought on “Hoofprints

  1. Sheila Sizemore says:

    Incredible story and insight! I can’t wait to read your book! I have a neice that needs to hear your stories. She loves horses and worked some helping in Brevard. Kit sure she is saved. She used to go to Cowboy Church.
    Love you dearly and miss seeing you!

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