Monday, November 12, 2012
118: I KNEW THEIR HEARTS
The following account is not only a great parable, but a true story told by the author of the book, "I Knew Their Hearts". The book is about the life experiences of Jeff Olsen who had a NDE after a tragic car accident that took his wife and one year old son. This book was given to me by a friend who stayed with us for a week. I enjoyed the gift and finished reading it this weekend. I thought others might enjoy this excerpt from the book which has much symbolism in it.
"Ben had shown up one day looking for work. He was a handsome but rugged man, soft-spoken , probably in his mid-thirties. He was a Native-American, but I don't remember him mentioning which tribe he belonged to. He told Dad he had no money and would work for food and a place to sleep.
My father had a kind heart and had nothing against hiring folks who deserved a break, Dad asked him what kind of work he did. He said he liked working with horses.
We happened to have three two-year old colts that needed breaking, so my dad told Ben he could start working with them. We didn't tell Ben how we broke horses or even how we expected him to do it. I suppose we were all interested in seeing how he might go about it.
Ben looked at the horses for a while and then climbed into the small corral where the colts were. The young horses moved over near the fence, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and Ben.
I watched Ben through the wood slats of the fence. He did nothing while the horses wandered around the perimeter of the corral, looking for a way out. Occasionally they'd look back at Ben. He stood there quietly. He moved to the middle of the corral and stretched out his arms like a big human scarecrow. He started to talk to the colts, quietly and calmly. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but he moved his arms in slow circular motions as he chanted and sang to the horses. Finally, one horse moved closer to him, perhaps losing its fear or becoming curious about what Ben was doing.
Ben continued to speak softly to the horse, not in English but in his native tongue. I didn't comprehend a word he said, but the tone of his voice was kind and soothing, like a song. I watched for what seemed like hours, amazed at what I was witnessing. This was not the way I had seen horses broken to ride before. Typically we tied them up and let them learn how to respect a rope and a halter. We taught them who was boss, so to speak. Ben's method was markedly different. Ben was actually speaking to them. Talking them into what he wanted. As I watched, I learned something: language was more than words and definitions.
After a while, Ben actually laid down on the ground, right on his back, looking up at the sky. He remained in that position a long time, his patience seemingly endless. Gradually the horses all moved closer, perhaps because he appeared less threatening stretched out on the ground like that.
Finally, the horses came close enough to sniff Ben's face and chest. Slowly, Ben raised his hand and stroked the sides of their faces, then their soft noses and other parts of their heads. it wasn't long until he was stroking their forelegs.
Slowly, Ben got to his feet. When the horses started to worry and move away, Ben would wait until they returned. After rubbing their necks and backs for a long time, he leaned against one of their shoulders and slowly pushed his chest and stomach onto the horse's back.
He was coaxing the horses to trust him. He was allowing them to take their time and become comfortable with him in a way that bonded them as partners, rather than as dominant owner and beast.
Ben worked with the horses into the night after I went in for the evening. In the morning, he was right back at it at first light, when we got up. For all I knew he'd slept in the corral with them. By the end of the third day, Ben was actually riding all three horses. He used a hackamore-style headstall that didn't cause any pain when he applied rein pressure to the horse's head. They ended up being some of the best horses we ever had."