During many summer vacations as a child, my family drove the long distance from our home in northern California to visit relatives in Utah. As a true city boy looking for adventure, I especially enjoyed our trips to my grandmother’s farm in southern Utah.
On the farm, my brothers, sisters, cousins, and I climbed to the tops of towering haystacks and then jumped off, flying down to a soft cushion of hay below. Next, we took turns on our uncle’s old tractors, grabbing the steering wheel and pretending we were racing across the field. After that, we balanced like tightrope walkers and made our way across the top of the rickety old fence rails that kept the cows corralled. The best fun, though, was riding old Blaze.
Blaze was a gentle, old, brown horse that loved kids to ride on her. When I was younger, I rode double with one of my older brothers or sisters. However, the summer I was about nine years old, I announced to everyone that I was old enough to ride Blaze all by myself. My parents agreed, so with a boost onto her back and some last-minute instructions from my uncle, I was riding Blaze all on my own like a real cowboy.
As I slowly guided Blaze into a partly fenced-in field, my family could see that I was handling Blaze as well as any professional cowboy. They left me to my fun and went inside Grandma’s old farmhouse. Holding the reins loosely in my hands as I sat atop the gentle horse, I felt like I was king of the world.
However, only a few minutes had passed when Blaze suddenly broke into a mad gallop. I pulled gently on the reins to slow her down, but she kept up her fast pace. I pulled harder on the reins and yelled, “Whoa!” But Blaze seemed to just go faster and faster. I kept tugging at the reins but didn’t dare pull too hard for fear that she would rear on her hind legs and buck me off.
I pulled again and again on the reins, but Blaze just kept on galloping out of control. My cries for her to stop turned into screams of panic as she raced from the safety of the field and away from the farmhouse while I bounced and jerked wildly in the saddle.
At a terrifying speed, she headed straight for an old tractor, swerving just in time to miss it. Racing like lightning, she headed next toward a wooden, railed fence. I thought for sure that we’d crash right into it, but Blaze swerved away again just in time.
No matter what I tried, I couldn’t control her at all. Eventually she galloped off the farm property onto the rarely used country road. With tears streaming from my eyes, I realized my situation had just grown considerably worse. I couldn’t stop her on my own, and it might be hours before anyone who could help me might venture this way. I could end up lost, miles away from my grandma’s farmhouse, before Blaze ever came to a stop or threw me off her back.
At that moment, I realized that there was only one thing left for me to do. I prayed with all my heart. I prayed in my mind, and I prayed out loud. I knew that Heavenly Father would hear my prayers and that He could help me.
It wasn’t long after my prayers that an old truck came barreling down the road. The man driving it saw right away that I needed help. Driving alongside the galloping horse and me, the man yelled from his truck window, “Pull on the reins!”
I pulled, but Blaze kept running. The man yelled for me to pull harder. Even though I was still afraid that Blaze might rear back, I pulled back even harder on the reins than I had tried before. Blaze kept on racing.
“Pull harder!” yelled the man.
I was afraid to pull any harder, but I realized that the man knew more about horses than I did. So, gathering all my strength, I pulled as hard as I could on the reins. Blaze didn’t stop at first, but with the man’s continual urging, the horse finally slowed to a complete stop.
The man in the truck pulled off to the side of the road and hopped out. My whole body shook as he helped me down off the horse. When I told him that Blaze was usually a mild-mannered horse, he explained that even the gentlest horse might break into a run if its rider holds the reins too loosely.
After thanking the man for his help and assuring him that I was OK, I started the long way back to the farmhouse, leading Blaze by the reins. As I walked, I realized that some people might say that the man coming by when he did was just a coincidence. But I knew differently. It was a direct answer to my prayers. Heavenly Father knew ahead of time that I would need help when I did. He inspired a man who knew a lot more about horses than I did to drive his truck down a lonely county road. I know with all my heart, that Heavenly Father answered the prayers of a terrified young boy who couldn’t stop a galloping horse on his own.
“Prayers for help are often answered by the Lord through the simple, daily service of caring brothers and sisters.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Ensign, November 1997, page 32.)