Why Passion Fades – Horsemanship and Discipleship Failure

Gray Andalusian stallion in a fog

Why aren’t students satisfied with their trainers? How can trainers better serve their students and horses? Why do folks church-hop, failing to set down roots and grow? Why causes horsemanship and discipleship failure? This article presents a scenario and suggestions for frustrated horse folks followed by the parallel for churches.

Countless horse folks share their passion for horses with newcomers. Likewise, many churches and ministries are dedicated to evangelism; spreading the Word in order to bring the lost to Christ. Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and you can’t have a relationship with a horse without having a horse – but what comes next?

Active discipleship is missing from many people’s pursuit of relationship with Christ and with their horses. All too frequently folks invest time, cash, energy, and emotion into their passions for horses, Christ, or both and end up asking themselves the same question,

“Is this all there is?”

Failure to Change is the definition of Failure

You take riding lessons, read books, and attend clinics to change something about you, your horse, or your partnership. Attending church, reading your Bible, and participating in Bible study should inspire changes in you that others recognize. What is effective transforms. No change = failure. Most folks attribute this astute observation to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

Is that your story?

  • Are you bored?
  • Are lessons repetitive?
  • Have you lost your first love?

Repetitive lessons – Redundant messages

Imagine you finally get the horse you’ve dreamed about since you were a horse-crazy nine-year old kid with a stick horse and book shelves overflowing with pony stories. You commit to build a meaningful relationship with your wonderful new horse. Possibilities appear limitless and you believe your fantasies are about to become reality.

You find an instructor who seems to understand your goals and loves horses. With great anticipation (and a nifty outfit) you schedule weekly lessons and get to work.

Lesson One –

You learn the basics of caring for your horse. Then you start the fun stuff, learning to mount up, walk off, and to turn right, left, and stop. Wow! You are in. This is exciting. Emotion and motivation flow like the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral.

Lesson Two –

You’re pumped up and ready to rock and roll again. Your instructor reviews the basics of caring for your horse. You are pleased to hear it again because you’d forgotten that part about picking hooves daily. The session continues by learning to mount up, walk off, turning to the right and left, and stopping. You did everything just a tad better than you did in Lesson One.

Lesson Three –

Back to the instructor for another lesson. The instructor reviews all the basics of caring for your horse. You feel comfortable because you know the list by heart – even the hoof picking part. The lesson continues by mounting up, walking off, turning right and left and stopping. No challenge here, you and your horse have the basics down pretty well.

Lessons Four, Five, Six, Seven, and Eight –

You review the basics about caring for your horse. You mount up, walk off, turn right and left then stop. It’s all a bit repetitive and starting to get just the slightest bit boring. Another lesson or two and you could teach the lesson.

Lesson Nine and Ten –

Been there. Done that. What are the odds there will be a Lesson 11?

Relationships Require Action

How many times will you go back for a lesson in the same thing before you demand more or quit? Your dream of sharing life with a horse isn’t all that life changing. You can take care of it, mount up, and walk around. Maybe the promise was a little over stated.

Suppose you take lessons from another instructor and then another. Every one uses a bit different vocabulary and tack set-up, but each one teaches the same thing: Pick feet, mount up, walk off, turn right and left – stop.

If you’ve been to enough horse clinics you know the routine. Pick up a rein. Soften the face and neck. Dum dee dum dum dum. There is another type of clinic. Some clinicians have been doing what they do for so long they quit evaluating horses and participants. They want to give something more; exciting, interesting, and challenging. They don’t want to be guilty of offering the same-old same-old.  This is the clinic where riders can get hurt and horses ruined.

Hopefully you haven’t been to that type of clinic and you and your horse are still sane and sound but bored. Little troubles you started having still bug you.

Two horrible things can happen to horse newbies – boredom and anxiety.

Related post you might enjoy – 7 Ways Obstacles and Challenges Improve Your Life

Why doesn’t anything change?

We all know there is far more to relationship with a horse than picking feet, mounting, and walking around. Stopping is a good skill to have, but it’s hardly the end of the story. No one has mastered all there is to know about relationship with a horse. But none of your local experts seem to have anything more to offer than selling you a horse and teaching you exactly what you learned in your first lesson.

Nothing changes. Lesson after lesson, week after week nothing changes. If there is anything different it’s your level of interest. Weekly lessons have become boring, repetitive, redundant, or scares the hummus out of you. Your horse is the same today as it was three months ago when you began lessons.

Pitfalls of Horsemanship Clinic Junkies

Most of us know serial horsemanship clinic participants. They’ve met all the big clinicians with the tack and DVD’s to prove it. Recently I audited a clinic with a TV clinician who good-naturedly noted that one rider had protective boots with one trainer’s logo, a saddle pad advertising another, a saddle designed by another, and a bridle from yet another clinician.

The rider had invested thousands of dollars getting the right set-up and attending clinics. Yet the relationship between she and her horse was little different than it has likely been since the first week they met. The horse didn’t transition well, couldn’t ride in a straight line, and popped its head or other body part this way or that trying to escape rein, leg, or crop pressure.

Horse relationship issues seldom depend on the “right set-up.”

All the time and money invested didn’t make a positive change for this horse and rider pair. Sadly, at least a couple of clinic participants went home with lighter pockets and horses with bigger troubles than when they arrived.

This is a fairly normal result. I used to lease part of my training facility to some big name clinicians for events. Trainers, instructors, teachers, and preachers are nothing more than tools or messengers. Whether or not positive change takes place with a rider or Christian depends entirely on the rider or the Christian.

Teaching MUST be personal.

Unless the clinician or preacher has a PERSONAL stake in your success, creating change is 100% up to you. Even with a committed clinician or spiritual advisor, creating change still depends 95% on you. Proof of success today is waking up tomorrow to live a life that is somehow different. Proof of success is the change in your horse because you’ve changed.

Horses are adept at picking up spiritual change and so is the Holy Spirit. The only way to change anything in your life is to change something in your life. Otherwise, you prove Einstein’s theory. Wisdom never expects change without change.

Discipleship Failure – Staying in same place

Evangelists often say they “lead” people to Christ. In truth, leading someone to Christ is like leading a horse to water. You can lead him to water but unless the desire for water is present he isn’t going to stick his muzzle in the trough and suck it in. Thirst must be present before there is an urge to satisfy it. In other words, there must be a motivator.

Our earlier illustration of multiple horse lessons is too often eerily parallel to meeting Jesus for the first time. The promise is amazing, the potential is awesome, and you are passionately committed to walk the walk.

Church Meeting Week One –

You discover the excitement of finding the Savior of the world and recognizing that you need Him. You learn the 10 Commandments and John 3:16. The Bible is introduced and the message delivered, “Jesus saves. Jesus loves you.” This is the new beginning you dreamed of. Your feet are on the path.

Church Meeting Week Two –

The preacher is excited about introducing everyone to the Savior of the world and showing how much they need Him. You learn the 10 Commandments and John 3:16. You’re glad for the review because you forgot the ones about false witness and coveting. The Good News is heralded again, “Jesus saves. Jesus loves you.”

Church Meeting Week Three –

You meet the Savior of the world again. The 10 Commandments are sounding pretty familiar and you can recite John 3:16 from memory. The preacher is still excited, especially because he led two new folks to Christ last week. They sure seem excited to hear that “Jesus saves and He loves you.” You remember how excited you were – the first time.

Church Meeting Week Four –

The preacher is excited. You tell him after the service that you are interested in more. You know the 10 Commandments and John 3:16. You are ready to move up. The preacher is delighted! He gives you a devotional book to read. “Jesus saves and He loves you.” Let’s begin our study in the 3rd chapter of John…

Church Meetings Five, Six, Seven, and Eight –

We all know there is far more to relationship with Christ than the 10 Commandments and John 3:16. No one has mastered everything about relationship with the King of Kings.

Nothing changes. Meeting after meeting, week after week, nothing changes. If there’s anything different, it’s your level of interest. Weekly lessons become boring, repetitive and redundant. You’re the same today as you were three months ago when you began attending services.

You Can’t Meet the Lord Jesus Christ Without Changing

Everyone who enters the presence of Jesus Christ will be changed. It is impossible to be a New Creation in Christ without changing. The old man is gone and a new man is born.

[su_quote cite=”Oswald Chambers”]Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus. When once you have seen Jesus, you can never be the same, other things do not appeal as they used to do.[/su_quote]

No parent-child relationship remains exactly as it was the day the baby was born. No marriage remains exactly as it was the moment Mr. and Mrs. were first introduced after vowing ’til death do us part.

  • Puppies grow into dogs.
  • Kittens grow into cats.
  • Little boys grow into men.
  • Little girls grow into women.
  • New Creations in Christ grow into ____________.

How would you fill in the blank?

All five examples refer to the path from birth to maturity. What determines how great a dog, cat, man, woman, or New Creation becomes is what happens along the way. Not every puppy becomes a faithful servant and some little boys grow up to be criminals.

It is the active, walking, relating part of life that moves one newly born toward maturity.

Learn to Recognize Discipleship Opportunity

Once you realize that every student working with your present horse instructor is limited to walking and turning it’s time to ask the hard questions. If the answers don’t lead to change, seek a new instructor.  Find a lesson barn where there are walkers, trotters, and lopers. Look for riders who share what they’ve learned about loping with the trotters and where the trotters share what they know with the walkers.

Barn gatherings should include everyone, regardless of accomplishment. Enjoying horses is about love and relationship, not competition.

If you attend church meetings where everyone moves at the same speed and very few are more accomplished, perhaps it’s time to seek more discipleship opportunity. It’s easy to recognize discipleship when you see it because of the variety of levels of spiritual advancement. Each person learns from one who is a bit further along the walk and reaches back to help those coming up behind.

Change is necessary. Few riders are content to just mount up, walk off, turn right or left and stop. Fewer still should be content to discover Christ and do NOTHING more. Doing ANYTHING more in relationship to Jesus Christ will change you.

The lost are found. Seekers become New Creations in Christ. That blessed moment is just the beginning.

New Creations in Christ grow into ______________.

How would you fill in the blank? Are you changing?

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber is a best-selling Christian author, speaker, and coach promoting personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. She provides support, resources, and encouragement to kingdom-minded people.

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber is a best-selling Christian author, speaker, and coach who helps people accomplish God's unique purpose for them and advance His kingdom on earth. She's also a retired World and National Champion horse trainer and breeder.

Stay connected for the latest articles, opportunities, and ongoing support as you move your vision closer to the finish line.

Plus, you’ll receive a complimentary copy of “Discover Vision Casting.”