Bit and Bridle

“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” (Psalm 32:9)

Whenever I encounter this verse, it sometimes troubles me because I don’t want to be that person who God has to drag kicking and screaming into repentance anymore. It is not a battle that you or I will win. Most often though, I have found it is His patience and His kindness that bring about repentance (Romans 2:4). 

And I can be a very patient person. This is a positive character attribute; indeed, it is a fruit of the Spirit that results from living by and keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). However, this trait for me can sometimes manifest in a tenacity of sorts, and due to my sin nature, even crosses the line into pure stubbornness. Apparently, it’s a common trait. 


I grew up with horses. We did not own any, but a long-time friend’s family did. My brothers were much older than me and rarely home to play so summers especially would find me camping out at this friend’s house. We would have fun together mucking stalls, cleaning corrals, or grooming the horses. Sometimes, I would even get the opportunity to ride which was super exciting. 

As I learned to ride, one thing that was taught to me early on was how to direct an animal that is nearly a thousand pounds. I was taught the importance of both using my legs to direct the horse as well as having good hands, keeping them low and steady in order to protect the horse’s mouth from the bit. When used properly, the bit is not painful, it is simply used by the rider to guide the horse. When horse and rider are not as one, however, the bit can damage the horse’s mouth, create scar tissue and dull the horse’s future responsiveness. This is similar to the human experience when we resist God’s will for our lives. Our stubbornness and arrogance create scar tissue or a hardening of our hearts that makes it more difficult to repent or forgive.

I have learned that school horses, in particular, can be quite intelligent and will try to grab the bit between their teeth when the rider allows too much slack. When this happens, the rider has essentially handed the reins over to the horse and lost control of a very large, deliberate animal. Typically, the horse will seize the opportunity to head back to the barn for food or perhaps it will casually sandwich one of the rider’s legs between its thousand-pound body and a nearby tree. Each horse is different and has its own set of fossilized bad habits. This is also true of human nature, and it negatively impacts our walk with God. 

So, how can a rider learn to guide a stubborn school horse? Or for that matter, what can we do when we are acting like a stubborn mule as in Psalm 32’s warning?


Is there a cliff ahead? Strong river currents that will endanger you, the horse or both? Or is it something as innocuous as a leaf blowing by that spooked you both? Is the horse hungry or over tired? Are you? Are there bears in the woods? If I’m there, and I’m hungry, there is most certainly at least one bear in the vicinity. 😉 Examine yourself-is there something or someone God is leading you to, but you are resisting? Pause, breathe and seek wisdom in prayer and from godly friends to gain perspective.


Know your strength and use it judiciously. An animal weighing nearly half a ton, can and will, overpower you through sheer force. Strength tempered by gentleness, wisdom and healthy respect are important here. There is a place for correction by crop or martingale but direct your attention first to instruction and guidance. Keep your hands low and steady; your feet are heels down in the stirrups. If you want a horse to come to you, take note of where the horse pulls back or advances forward. Is this in response to something you are doing?

With people, I often hide behind words, and I have learned I need to be gentle in both content and in tone when I use words in my relationships. Always ask yourself, how is God equipping me or working in this situation? What is He trying to teach me and how is He working in my heart or in those around me? 


Once your horse comes to you, enjoy the scenery on a leisurely walk; or let your horse run like the wind, for the sheer joy of it. Take in your surroundings and rest assured that God is good; He is in control. Admire the breath-taking work of His creation and His creatures with the awe and wonder of a child seeing them for the first time. Give thanks in everything.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.


An expert jump by my long-time friend Tammy.

Feature photo credit: Zuzule.



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