A few years ago, Stacey (my wife), and I hosted a married couple’s retreat that would ultimately end up at a horseback ride along the Arkansas River. We all had looked forward to the ride throughout the weekend. It would be a sunset trip with our sweethearts on the back of some beautiful gentle animals, so we thought.
We got to the riding stables and discovered that we had more riders than they had gentle animals. What I mean is they had plenty of horses but they didn’t have enough “good” horses for us. The owner said that since I was the leader, I would have to ride one of their less desirable horses (how does that work?).
He took me to a pen that held a hodgepodge of different colored and sized horses. As soon as we stopped at this pen all the horses froze watching me through the fence. It was an eery feeling, like going to the gator pit to pick out a pet.
Horse Named Whiskey
The owner explained I needed to decide between them which one I wanted. He went on to give their names and along with their names he would give their disposition. “This is Red, he throws people, this is Lightening, he will take off running and you can’t stop him.” All I could think of was “oh crap!” I even asked if I could walk, but the answer from the crowd of my peers watching from behind me with smiles and smirks was “No.”
Finally, he told me of one horse that seemed the lesser of the several evils, his name was Whiskey (and believe me at this point I needed a drink), the owner explained Whiskey was a “biter”. So my choices were to get thrown, stomped, run off with, or bitten. I chose bitten.
To be totally honest here, I have only ridden one other horse in my life up to this point and it was connected to a merry-go-round type of thing at the State Fair, so by no stretch of the imagination am I a seasoned rider and how I got selected for this mission I will never know.
Life is like that, there are times you have to decide even when the variables are not fair. So Whiskey and I set out for an epic ride. I felt like the ride of my life (or should I say the ride for my life). We hadn’t gotten far before I was faced with the reality of Whiskey’s character defect in the area of biting.
Sea Biscuit the Psycho
We were on the trail and Whiskey wanted to stop and eat a little grass, I thought “no problem, if his mouth is full of grass he won’t be so tempted to fill it with my leg.” But our guide didn’t want the horses to eat along the way, so I was asked to pull up on the reigns and get Whiskey to move along. That is when it all went wrong, from that point on I realized I was on the back of Seabiscuit the psycho.
As soon as I pulled the reigns to move him along, his head turned almost full around and he looked me in the eye (like the Exorcist) with anger that a horse should be incapable of as if to say “today you die”. After that, at every opportunity, he would turn his head and bite my calf. The pain of a horse bite can only be understood by clamping a piece of your skin in a vice until it is bleeding and bruised.
Whispering to Whiskey
Up to this point, I tried to “whisper” to Whiskey as a ploy to somehow diffuse the voices he was listening to that told him to kill or maim his rider. It was the second bite that ended my kindness; it’s amazing what pain will do to cause your fear to leave. If I’d had a gun, or better yet a stick, I would have been walking back, and Whiskey would be headed to the happy pasture in the sky that day, but for whatever reason God hadn’t provided me with a killing option.
But what was I going to do? I was peeved but helpless to do anything to my torturer. Then the Holy Spirit (I think it was Him) opened my eyes to something that just might work. Now what I am about to tell you I have never shared with anyone in my life. The very next time Whiskey turned to bite my leg (which at this point was red and throbbing) I did something unspeakable…I poked him in the eye. Yep, I did, right in that big brown (evil) eye. I stuck my finger right in it.
I could immediately see the shock in his horse face.
He couldn’t believe it! As he looked at me through his one good eye, I could tell I had gotten through.
Just then I leaned forward and I whispered in his ears “There is more where that came from.” Sure enough, he tried it again, and again I poked him in the eye. I couldn’t get over the satisfaction I felt as I jabbed my finger in his eye only to be face to face with horse shock.
I know right now some of you animal lovers are going “Oh how cruel.” I have to say to you GET OVER IT! This horse was evil, I would have driven him to the glue factory myself that day. It is interesting that later Whiskey, tried to bite me on my other leg and I reminded him with my finger… he had an eye on that side of his head too.
By this time both of his eyes were red and watering and both of my legs were purple and bruised but somehow Whiskey and I had come to an “agreement.” You don’t bite my leg and I won’t poke you in the eye, simple as that.
The remainder of the ride was less eventful and even enjoyable. I learned something that day about troubled marriages and difficult horse rides. Sometimes you get a different horse than what you originally wanted but with God’s help and some practical steps you can make much more of the ride than what you might think.
Whiskey and Marriage
I figure some of you are asking what does Whiskey have to do with marriage? If you have already begun the fight to save your marriage you have already made the connection. When you view marriage through the fence she can often be majestic and beautiful to watch run, but when you climb onto the saddle very often you find that the picturesque expectations you had were only part of the view from a distance.
Up close, marriage is filled with great reward and many times great hurt. When you find yourself in a marriage that has a personality like Whiskey, and you’ve just got bitten you will have to make one of two choices. You will both get off and try to find a better ride or you will learn that sometimes an old horse that bites can learn a new way to ride. Just remember you might have to poke it in the eye to get there.
I didn’t realize on that day how much that old horse would teach me about marriage, but he did. I hope and pray I can help you learn to make your ride all that God desires it to be.