“Uh, oh. Little horse, big trouble,” I thought. But it made sense that seven-year-old Sherah (the smallest of our three-person team) would choose the Shetland pony from the line-up of horses. The others towered over her.
When Amanda had called to see if I’d accompany her and the eldest four grandbeans to Success Ranch (near Yorkton, SK) to spend an afternoon with horses, I jumped.
I’d been curious about the ranch since meeting the owner, Stephanie Lockhart, years earlier. Her vision intrigued me: uniting her passion for horses with her mission to use them to assist people in meeting common life challenges – things like getting along with others, thinking more creatively, setting goals, achieving focus.
On our arrival, Stephanie divided those gathered into groups of three or four. After explaining the process, she tasked each team with selecting an equine partner to (presumably) work with us to solve various challenges scattered around the arena.
“His name is Stormy,” Stephanie said, of Sherah’s pick. Good name, I thought. As a teenager I knew a Shetland well. Headstrong, hard-nosed – as likely to kick as cooperate. I had my doubts about this paint-coloured pint with the mismatched mane and tail. (White mane, black tail and forelock.) “Go figure,” said grandson Benjamin, our third team member. “Stormy,” repeated his sister, tasting the name, petting the horse. Loving it.
She led Stormy to our first station: four railway ties, arranged in a square on the ground. A single work glove lay in the center. “Remove the horse’s halter and get him to stand on the glove,” read a posted sign. The halter slipped off easily. Just as easily, Stormy, head high, trotted back to the other side of the arena.
Chagrined, we retrieved our escaped team member and tried again. This time we dialogued possible solutions, first agreeing that our instructions didn’t say we couldn’t hold on to the pony, or that we had to take the pony to the glove, or that he had to stand on it with more than one foot.
Off came the halter again. Benjamin and Sherah gripped Stormy’s mane as I fetched the glove, raised the horse’s front leg and stuck the glove under it. Mission accomplished. Out- of-box thinking achieved. Teamwork managed. (And Shetland pony outsmarted.)
One by one, the three teams made the circuit of obstacles; laughing, pondering, discussing, facing and solving each. Later that afternoon, we left the ranch astounded. Accepting and working closely with our equine team members – so unlike ourselves – had opened the door to new ways of thinking, relating, dialoguing, cooperating and ultimately finding solutions to our joint challenges.
When Jesus entered the arena of humanity, few people believed that tiny newborn was God’s long-awaited solution to mankind’s biggest challenge. This baby in the straw? Our Saviour heaven-sent? The Messiah who could soften hearts hardened by sin and alter one’s eternal destiny?
But for those who believed, who welcomed and invited him in, he did just that. He changed everything, from the inside out.
He still does. Believe.