Archive for December, 2011

What does Peace look like?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The horse arrived a few days ago and as I watched him out the window I noticed he was still pacing. At a fairly brisk walk he would follow the fence line for about a hundred feet, turn on his forehand and continue walking in the other direction along the fence another hundred feet. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth he went, occasionally even breaking into a jog. His head would stay over the fence gazing at some distant point as if he could see something that I couldn’t. I had been observing this behavior for the last two days. Already he had a trench dug into the paddock fence line that was close to four inches deep. The only time he paused in his anxious pacing was to eat his grain and hay. The paddock was full of green grass yet he wouldn’t stop long enough to eat it. He wasn’t interested in his current surroundings. Now anyone who has had horses behaving this way knows it is very disturbing to watch for several reasons. Firstly, it permanently destroys the paddock. The trench will never fill in the same way again and I’ve seen pastures that literally have a trench over a foot deep. Secondly, it’s just not healthy for the horse. Ulcers, foot ailments, colic, are only a few of the ailments that could result from his behavior. He is a three year old gelding off the track and is here to board for the winter season. In the spring he will return to the track where he has already raced a few times. His anxious behavior externally was a reflection of his anxious thoughts.

Kickin' Key Lime pacing & pacing

Because horses are herd animals, I figured this guy wanted to be out with the other horses. So I put him in another paddock with a buddy to keep him company. He was happy for about two hours, when the pointless, mindless pacing started again. Now he was upsetting the other horse. So I moved him back to his own paddock where he could still see horses all around him. I tried putting tires along the fence line to stop the track but he just moved inside the tires and kept pacing. I let it go a few more days to see if he would calm down on his own but nothing changed. So thinking to help him deal with his anxious thoughts, I started him on a 30 day tranquilizer. As the drug took effect, he stopped his pacing and spent the hours eating grass and dozing in the sunshine. Problem solved, at least for now. But at the end of the thirty days, I will take him off the tranquilizer and hope he has learned that life today can be enjoyed while he waits for the changes of the future. Horses with this level of internal/external anxiety rarely become successful in their journey of life. They wear themselves out long before they reach the finish line.

As I reflected on the behavior of this horse, I thought about how many times in my own life I’ve acted the same way. I admit I am a worrier. It is a behavior I detest about myself. And I come by it honestly since my mother was also a worrier. Like most of our behavior patterns, it is learned and it is possible to be unlearned. After all, I wasn’t born a worrier. These behavior patterns come from our thoughts which originate in our hearts. That is why the bible tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23) In order to learn how to let go of worry, I must learn to trust God. But like the horse, sometimes, I am so focused on where I want to be in the future, I forget to enjoy the bountiful blessings that are all around me at the moment. And when I take to ‘pacing the fence line’ in my life, I don’t always realize how much it is hurting me, my environment and those around me. I get fixated on a goal (after all that is my choleric personality) and I sometimes forget the pasture full of grass that is already around me. Because we want what we want and we worry about whether or not we’ll ever get it, we start to medicate ourselves when we can’t have it or it’s not available immediately. We eat too much, drink too much, take medications, overwork, or under work. We do whatever it takes to ease our distress and anxiety. For me, once anxiety sets in, depression isn’t far behind. I have found that the health hazard of spending a lifetime pacing the fence line is failing adrenals. I cannot allow myself to stress anymore because my adrenals no longer function normally and I end up totally exhausted. So I guess in the end, I have learned how to seek peace. In this world today many, many people are living under so much self-inflicted stress much like the gelding. They are metaphorically pacing and pacing and mindlessly, endlessly pacing and their health and relationships are suffering. Our thoughts are the root of our behaviors. Anxiety comes from stress which comes from fear. Change our thoughts, and our actions will follow.

If only I could tell that little horse that he was safe in that paddock alone. That he will be fed and cared for and after a few months of vacation, he’ll be heading back to all the action again. You see that horse is an adrenaline junkie too. He loves to run (after all he is a thoroughbred). He can’t stay still, at least not without medication. For his own good, he is on vacation to grow and mature and prosper. He needs this time for his bones to become stronger. But I can’t tell him these things and he doesn’t trust me and so I cannot help him.

I wonder how often God is watching us pace the fence lines of our lives, anxious for something, anything, other than what we have right now. I wonder how often He is wishing that we would just TRUST HIM because He has a great plan for our life if only we would wait on Him. I wonder how many times we miss God’s great plan for us by making unwise decisions because we just want to do anything to relieve the worry. These days whenever I feel the urge to start ‘pacing the fence line’, I say out loud “Trust in the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever” over and over until I begin to see and feel what peace looks like in my life. I have learned to change my thoughts, which in effect changes my behavior. Sound simple? It is. And you can’t just give lip service to those words, but you must truly believe them in your heart. Trust God. You must believe with childlike faith. That’s what Jesus taught us.

That's what peace looks like!

If anyone else has seen themselves in the actions of this horse, please consider growing your faith…Embrace a new thought, take the action needed and trust God! Speak it out loud, pray it to God and BELIEVE IT! As a child of the Most High, His power is available to each and every one of us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:6-8

At this exciting time of the year, let the words of the angels guide your thoughts…. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward menLuke 2:14

In the words of Jesus “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”John 14:27

Much love and a very Merry Christmas,


(In the past fifteen years I’ve cared for hundreds of young thoroughbreds and many of them displayed this same behavior. But until I took the training for Equine Assisted Experiential Learning I didn’t see the metaphor of how their behavior mirrors what we do. Many of the Life Skills we teach the youth and adults participating in our programs are learned by interacting and watching the herd. Self-awareness and personal development are so important to live the abundant life we are promised.)