Meanwhile, back at the ranch;
Years ago, in my younger days on the Heyu-cow Ranch, it came time to move our cows from the lower pasture to the upper pasture and onto better grass, not an unusual occurrence, problem was, we were between horses- in other words we did not have any working cow horses at the time to round up the cows in the 130 acre pasture so that we could push them up the back road to the upper pasture, or as we called it; up on the hill.
Not to worry, a guy I was working with at the time offered to bring out his horses to help us out. “They’ll make fine cow ponies” he assured me. So early in the morning on what would turn out to be a very hot Saturday my buddy Ray showed up with his young son, pulling a trailer loaded with three big stout horses. They looked like they would do the job. Ray saddled up two of them for his son and him and I threw my saddle on the third.
Off we went down the road to the lower pasture with my wife Donna following in the pickup to help lead the cows once we got them on the road. The lower pasture is pretty rough- badlands, but this just added to the fun and we got the cows and calves rounded up and moving toward the gate without a lot of trouble but I did discover in the process that the horse I was riding had no cow sense whatsoever and in fact only wanted to follow Rays horse.
Ray informed me that he had never actually worked cows with these horses before, he used them for trail rides in the mountains and his horse was usually in the lead while the one I was riding was always following, oh well, at least my cows knew what to do, most of them anyway…
We got the pairs moved up the hill to the corner gate and got them all through, all that is except for three heifer calves. The cows had hustled right through the gate knowing it meant they were headed toward greener pastures and most of the calves had followed on their heels but the three that lagged behind, having lost momentum, hesitated at the gate, as far as they could remember they had never been beyond this point and were not about to just run through it into the great unknown- gate or no gate, wannabe cowponies or no.
Before we could turn them on our mountain muscled trail horses they had skirted around us and headed back down the hill away from the gate and away from the rest of the herd who was already on the road and eager to go, then I made a big mistake; I told Donna to go ahead and lead the cows on up the road and that we would catch up with her after we got the renegade heifers turned around and out the gate behind them, those of you who work cows already know where this is going, don’t you?!
Once a critter gets separated and loses sight of the herd there is no convincing them to explore strange new worlds, to boldly go where no cow has gone before. These heifer calves were determined to stay put in that pasture, somehow convinced that the herd had to be in there somewhere because, well, they just always had been. There are few things dumber than a heifer calf.
Anyway so here we go, two construction workers and a 11 year old boy on our trail horses to round up three wild eyed calves from 130 acres of badlands whose herd had disappeared off the edge of the earth. We lit out after them- trying to get around them, the horses actually holding up quite well for as hot as it was but just not cut out for this task.
I was getting more and more frustrated as my horse was constantly fighting me just wanting to follow Rays horse rather than my signals. At one point the heifers ran up a steep hill with Ray in hot pursuit up the trail. I tried to follow him up the same trail, the terrain was quite rough and the trail was by far the best way to get up this hill, but after Rays horse got to the top of the hill and out of sight my horse panicked.
In spite of my attempts to keep him on the trail that kinda cut diagonally up the hill he insisted on running all out- straight up the hill, apparently I was just along for the ride. Well we got to the top of the hill in record time and still upright, the problem came when we got to the top of the hill; he was so focused on powering straight up this hill to catch up with his leader that he forgot to quit running uphill once we crested the top.
The hill suddenly leveled out and he was suddenly pawing the air reaching for the next step- which was not there- guess what happened then; he fell flat on his face rear over teakettle and sent me flying on over his head where I landed on my shoulder, having had time to half turn in midair to avoid landing on my face. I quickly got to my feet, as did the horse who seemed no worse for the wear, unlike myself, and grumbling; “Cow pony my eye!” I climbed back on.
Ray and his son came back looking for me after having lost the calves and I told them to “forget about the calves –we had better catch up with the rest of the herd before Donna has a bigger problem with cows scattered all over the neighborhood.”
So nursing a sore shoulder and a bruised inner thigh from the saddle horn that had made a lousy airbag, we got the herd where they belonged, rode back to the house, got the horses unsaddled and cooled down from their work and loaded back in the trailer. I thanked Ray and sent him on his way, thinking to myself behind a forced smile, “cow ponies my eye!” I than jumped in the truck and drove down the road to see what had become of our renegade heifers.
After we had given up on them apparently they had a change of heart and had walked through the open gate on their own. I met them trotting down the road about a ¼ mile from the gate to the upper pasture bawling for their momma’s who were standing by that gate calling for their calves. All I had to do was follow them and open the gate to let them in when they got there.
I learned a lot that day about cows, calves, horses, the importance of holding pens, and the soreness I had for the next several days made sure I remembered the lessons, chief among them, don’t move cattle with a horse who will not heed it’s rider!
Don’t let the name fool you, a trail horse is not the best choice for trailing cows!
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15
That horse, whose name I forgot long ago, had no inkling whatsoever to listen to me. As far as he was concerned I was just along for the ride. He thought he had it all figured out; “I’ll just do what I have always done- follow the other horses.” That wasn’t working here in the badlands.
He didn’t know me, he acted like he trusted me at least until it was important, when I tried to get him to veer from his chosen course and save us from a wreck, because of that we didn’t get the job done, we had to leave calves behind and got hurt in the process.
Sound familiar? How many times have we said we trust the Lord, that we will do what he says and go where we sends, until it comes time; “But Lord, everyone else is doing it this way, everyone else is going that way!” So we fight against the bit and just go where we had planned to go anyway suddenly finding ourselves disoriented and in a heap on the ground not even hearing the Spirit say- “Now why did you do that?” Instead we huff and puff and complain that the Lord steered us wrong.
“It can’t be my fault, that’s the way I’ve always done it, that’s the way everyone else does it!”
Being Spirit led is a lot like being broke to neck reign, just a light touch on the side of the neck and a sharp horse who trusts the rider will turn the instant it feels the leather shift- after a while even anticipating the reins by the shift in body weight and a squeeze of the knees. A Spirit led believer will move as soon as it feels the Spirit signal, even anticipating the nuances of the Spirits movements in our hearts.
This happens only if you truly trust the Lord, if you are truly open to his leading and the more you do, the more you will trust him and the easier it is to follow, even into the unexpected, until it becomes second nature. A good cow pony absolutely delights in getting to work cows and will just about turn inside out with anticipation when it sees it’s rider coming toward him with a saddle, the job gets done with no stress, little pain and a pure sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that makes any pain or soreness worthwhile and even more prepared for the next mission.
A lazy, unresponsive cowpony will get left in the corral until his wrangler gets fed up with wasting good feed on him and sells him to the folks down the road who want a cheap lethargic horse to entertain their grandkids.
Listen to the voice, the counselor whether you turn to the left or the right, even if you have always done it that way and even if the rest of the herd is out of sight. We are the church of Jesus Christ, we are the body, we are born again spirit led disciples of the living God. Who are we listening to, who are we trusting, who are we following?- the answer had better be, The LORD.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way;( walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21