Monthly Archives: July 2016

Beyond Behavior Modification

The last time I got kicked by a horse was when I was working at Rafter Six Guest Ranch.  I was leading one horse through the covered area where we tacked up in the mornings past a loose horse that happened to be there.  The loose horse must have thought the one I was leading was encroaching on his personal space and intended to teach some respect with a quick kick as we passed by.  Unfortunately he nailed me instead hard enough that the next day I had a defined outline of a horseshoe in the bruise on my butt.

I subscribe to the philosophy that if a horse kicks or bites you that you need try to kill it. .  .so long as you aren’t holding an instrument that can actually accomplish the feat.  The idea is that you must get into his mind that if he lashes out in aggression he will die, and if you can achieve that without actually touching the horse all the better.

So I grabbed the lead shank off the horse I’d been leading and holding the snap end proceeded to flail the rope around and around, slapping it on the ground right beside him and yelling my head off at him.  I pushed him into a corner and repeatedly cut off any escape for him till I could see he feared for his life.  Then I dropped my arms and gently called him to me.  The horse turned and walked right up to me with his head lowered while I rubbed him around the neck and ears.

When I put the rope around his neck to lead him out I turned to see my two young wranglers with their jaws in the dirt.  They had never seen me apparently snap before and were stunned.  I explained to them that my actions were completely controlled and not simply punitive punishment or venting my anger on the horse.  The goal of the exchange was not primarily to modify the horse’s behavior, but to actually have him want to be near me in a healthy relationship, which was exactly what happened.

While undoubtedly limited, this is a useful illustration of God’s wrath, something we see particularly in the Old Testament and that many people have trouble with.  For example in Amos the prophet speaks extensively about judgement and punishment for the nation of Israel.  Many understand that this is primarily punishment to stop the horrific things the people are doing; even infant sacrifice to pagan idols.  But in the middle of it God repeats 3 times.  Seek Me.  Seek Me.  Seek Me.

Behavior modification will be an outcome, but it’s not his goal.  His goal is healthy relationship with you.  That’s what Jesus died for.