(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON - A crowd gathered at the First Assembly of God's land across from the rodeo grounds on Thursday to hear Lew Sterrett, the "Horse Whisperer."
Sterrett was giving his famous Sermon on the Mount presentation. According to his brochure, the purpose "is to help people understand how healthy relationships develop and how they can experience harmony and success in their own lives."
"He draws parallels between relationships in our lives to that between a horse and it's trainer," said Larry Garrett, a member of Miner Baptist Church. The church sponsored Sterrett's trip to Missouri.
Garrett had previously seen the "Horse Whisperer" in action. In April, Sterrett was at the Flickerwood Arena near Fruitland. Earlier this year, Garrett also attended a clinic in Sterrett's home state of Pennsylvania.
After listening to the Sermon on the Mount, Garrett said that he was amazed. "I couldn't believe the message that came through so clearly," he said.
He suggested that people who work with horses are often introverts, and that Sterrett's presentation puts things into perspective for them. "It's simple and easy to relate to," Garrett commented.
And Sterrett's technique appears to work. For years, Garrett has been training horses on the side. He said that training has gone better since he heard the presentation. "It's all coming together now," he remarked.
Although Garrett will sing the "Horse Whisperer's" praise, Sterrett was actually booked to appear in Sikeston long before Garrett's experiences. "He's very, very booked," Garrett said. "You have to get him a year or so in advance."
Miner Baptist Church heard about the Sermon on the Mount at the Missouri Southern Baptist Convention and decided to book him. "We thought it would be good for this area," Garrett said.
Two sessions were scheduled for Sterrett. In each of the two-hour sessions, he worked with horses supplied by Forrest and Gail Fuilling and Clint Atchison, using biblical teachings as a guide.
In the first session, he broke a horse that had never even had a saddle on it, let alone been ridden. "Life is the accumulation of little steps," he said.
The later performance featured Sterrett working with horses that had been broken. "These horses have problems, such as bucking or slinging their heads," Garrett said.
Sterrett was firm but gentle in his training. "I am very careful not to abuse his confidence," he said. "I don't want to take away his confidence or freedom.
Spectators were able to see the horses go from fearful to trusting, from stiff and resistant to supple and willing.
Like most people, Sterrett didn't want his colt to buck. But he put a different spin on this concept. "I don't want him to have a need to buck. I want to give him the desire to do good and honor his master."
In addition to learning how to develop a better relationship with horses, the Sermon on the Mount is designed to build stronger relationships with one another. "My goal is to connect a parent, coach or trainer to the heart of a student, child or horse," Sterrett said.
For instance, Sterrett made the horse responsible to make his own choices. When the right choice was made, a reward was given. However, the wrong choice did not result in punishment. "They should not be scolded for taking the initiative," he said.
He suggested that these techniques also be used with children, no matter how scary it is for parents.
Sterrett learned from others, as well as developing his own teachings. He has been practicing these techniques since 1981 and began traveling in 1994. He has quite a few responsibilities at home, but has traveled to 30 states and provinces this year. He is completing a five-week tour.
For more information about Lew Sterrett, the "Horse Whisperer," visit his website at www.sermononthemount.org.