The Christian Equestrian’s Path to Authenticity

By Rebekah L. Holt

 

“He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness.” Micah 7: 9

 

down the road 300 x 400    Today our four legged friend, the horse, has become a form of entertainment, recreation and therapy generating a 112 billion dollar industry in America .1   With all this popularity and enterprise, it’s not surprising to find media sources, training techniques, and instruction for equestrians absorbed in a hodge-podge of philosophies with many proposing a threat to authentic Christianity.

 

    Romans 1:22-23 tells us that a spiritual imbalance and tendency toward idolatry can be expected on earth, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.”

 

    Though it may be touted that our era is an “enlightened age”, the Bible tells us that those who embrace in doctrines contrary to scripture are living in darkness and are devoid of the only source of Light –the Triune God of Christianity. “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).

 

    The Lord further directs Christians to disassociate ourselves from and reprove the works of darkness2 bringing every thought into harmony in obedience with Christ.

 

"Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

 

Some Trust in Chariots and Some in Horses

 

    In efforts to advance my equestrian skills and certifications as a therapeutic riding instructor, I have been actively studying. The more I read and peruse the “suggested reading” lists, the more I discover how accepted and integrated various forms of idolatrous religious practices are in our entire American culture.   What is more shocking is that many professed Christians are not disassociating themselves from these rituals and false doctrines. Many instead are endeavoring to “repackage” pagan philosophies and practices in a neutral or “Christian” framework in order to participate with a lulled conscience.

 

    With such an increasing surge of information and selection of instruction, we just have to open an equine magazine to reveal the popularity of “equestrian paganism”. Some trainers and clinicians travel our continent teaching horsemanship principles based in Eastern religions. Select horse retreats and weekend clinics offer participants the arts of Qigong, T’ai Chi, Shamanism, Yoga, Taoism, Buddhism, etc. Best selling book releases provide Hindu “paths to spirituality” for riders to “mentally, physically and spiritually” achieve a “greater harmony” with their horse and themselves. Emphatically, Darwinian evolution—a blind religious faith masquerading as “science”—what Scripture calls “science falsely so-called”—strong-arms nearly all forms of media for equine origins, life and future. With the rise of using horses as a therapy module, many unchristian mental and spiritual “health” mantras permeate equestrian therapy centers. Horse expos across America are featuring Animal Communicators and Reiki Masters as special guests and clinicians to “help solve” horse problems.

 

    Unfortunately, in our society, it is often considered fashionable and even “intellectual” to dabble in spiritualism. As Christians, if we are going to be Christ followers, we have a Biblical standard to guide us and live by. The commandment that Christ gave us puts us to the real challenge, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

 

    Do we love the Lord enough to allow Him full rein in our lives? What are we holding back from truly worshipping Him in spirit and in truth? 3

 

Go To The Roots

 

    What could be termed “equestrian paganism” is a melting pot of ideas, beliefs—a sort of “roll your own religion.” Whatever goes! Just add this, throw out that and be happy, healthy, peppy, horsy people. In reality, believing in false ideals just doesn’t work for the long haul. Ultimately, this all started back in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. There the devil denied the truth of God’s word, created doubt in Eve’s mind and ultimately deceived her into the act of disobeying the Lord. The same tactics the devil uses today in so many different packages and many are beautifully labeled as the key to effective horsemanship.

 

    It helps to scratch more than the surface and get to the foundation of where these beliefs come from. In this article, I’m specifically addressing New Age/Eastern Religion worldviews which seem the most prevalent threat for equestrians.    

 

    Hinduism, Shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism and the New Age outlooks are all essentially a form of pantheism. Pantheism believes that “literally all is God”. This worldview teaches that God is impersonal though infinite. Pantheists believe that all is an illusion that we can overcome if we will just find ourselves. To boil it down, this worldview teaches that our limitations are illusions of the mind and that if we can overcome ourselves, master our energy and our minds, we can achieve fulfillment and nothing can stop our success.4“Worship your own inner self. God lives within you as you.”5

 

    This is so contrary to what the Bible teaches and what is truth.

 

    The bedrock of Christianity is ultimately a belief in a personal, all powerful Triune God6 (i.e. God the Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ and God the Holy Spirit) and a professed confession of Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior.7  

 

    As dedicated Christians, first we should believe what God reveals about Himself in Scriptures. Our Christian worldview must not be based on seeking to “fit” the Lord into our imaginations, our preferences, our concepts of what we “think” He is.   Christians should believe that God is as Christ said, the Author of what is good8, our Standard of Righteousness.9  The Bible, God’s written word, is to be reverenced as the literal, inspired Holy Script available to guide our lives10—if we will but study it and pray that the Lord will give us understanding how to apply It!11 The Bible teaches us to recognize our limitations as mortal humans,12 to confess our sins13 and seek to become a new creation in the image of Jesus Christ.14 Instead of seeking to master our minds in our own strength, the Bible instructs Christians to cast our cares on the Wonderful Counselor15 and to seek the Lord for Wisdom.16 Contrary to worshipping self and a building a “self-image”—Jesus Christ teaches us to forget ourselves17, to be meek and lowly18, to esteem other Christians as better than ourselves and to think of others’ benefit19 that our lives may be enriched and fulfilled by serving others in His name.20 Instead of viewing our real sufferings as “illusions”, Jesus Christ is pitiful to our sufferings, understands them21 and offers us everlasting hope of one day a world without sin, pain and suffering22.   And instead of trying to achieve self-made success, as Christians we should believe that God has created us in order to serve Him in what He has prepared for us to accomplish in this life.23 

   

    Christianity is not about “ourselves”. It is about in serving others and, even more so, loving the Lord Who made us.   The mantra of the world teaches, “Invest in yourself and you’ll find happiness“, a philosophy that leads its followers into fleeting, hollow individual gratification. The Bible teaches us that if we will forget ourselves and serve others in the Name of Jesus—we will be like a watered garden—full of beauty, productivity, abundance and joy.24 

 

So What’s the Big Deal? Can’t We Just Re-label and Enjoy the Benefits?

 

    The main thing for a Christian to consider is that many religions have ritualistic practices or works specifically created for followers to worship or reach their gods. Terminologies from these worldviews and concepts based in misguided “half truths” are ways the devil can undermine a Christian’s foundation in Jesus Christ. Participating in these forms of idolatrous practices—whether for physical exercise, self defense or in order to become a better equestrian—brings Christians back to the reality of being guilty by association. You may not really “believe” the “weird parts” of that particular religion but are participating in the fun, physical stimulating activities it offers. Again this runs contrary to Ephesians 5:11’s command to have no fellowship with the works of darkness.

 

    And yet, many professing Christians are still comfortable with participating in such activities as yoga, yogilates and martial arts that find their origins in Hindu and Asian religions. Is it really possible to use the good parts of these movements and throw out the trash?

 

   Well, even the Hindus don’t think yoga is compatible with Christianity. Hindu yoga practitioner, Rajiv Malhotra writes that “Christian Yoga” is an “oxymoron” and that professed Christians’ efforts to neutralize yoga into a Christian framework are “unhelpful to both yoga and Christianity.”25 His article reveals that “Yoga is a do-it-yourself path that eliminates the need for intermediaries such as a priesthood or other institutional authority.” In other words, in yoga there’s no room for Jesus Christ as a personal Lord and Savior.

 

    Similiarly to yoga, most martial art forms—where many popular teaching techniques for riding can be harmonized—are undergirded with pagan Eastern religion philosophies. I became aware of the correlation of what is taught in martial arts and in many popular fundamental riding principles by reading a horse book.  “In order to coordinate all your aids in a smooth and harmonious fashion, you must have a strong central focus. This focusing or centering is referred to as the ki by aikido masters. The ki is the life energy, which has the potential to give body movements a controlled power…Open your mind to the development of this energy body. Does such terminology have the flavor of an Eastern philosophy? Most definitely.” 26 If you scratch the surface of many popular horsemen and women in therapeutic riding, natural horsemanship, dressage, etc., you can find similar teachings with those perportrated in karate, taekwondo, judo, etc. Upon researching the term “ki” (can be referred to as “chi”), I discovered that this concept is indeed apart of an idolatrous practice called Qigong, considered an Eastern art with deep roots in Shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism and other offshoots of Asian religions. 27 A former martial art practitioner reveals that “training in the fighting martial arts cannot be separated from the religion(s) in which they were founded.” 28

 

    While it may be possible for some horse clinicians and instructors to offer correct information within a false concept, we must remember that a partial truth is foundationally a lie.   Ascribing to instruction based in unchristian philosophies is enough to allow compromise and doctrinal doubt to invade our Christian walk.    As Christians we must guard against placing our minds at the disposal of others. “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?”…What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:14, 16-17).

 

    Does this mean we throw out horses or being kind in our treatment of them? Are we to quit trying to improve our training techniques? Of course, not! What this means, is that we as Christians must not seek the wrong sources of education. Philosophies and practices that don’t line up with scripture must be discarded.

 

“Horsey—Tell Me Your Troubles…”

 beauty-talk 400 x 266

    Animal Communicators or Interspecies Telepathic Communicators (as some call themselves) are another product of paganism that we face today.

 

   " Being able to converse or talk to animals is considered a gifted profession. These "communicators" are positive that animals are spiritual beings like humans. Each communicator has different "psychic" communicative abilities which include: talking to dead animals, discerning whether the animal is ready to die and also discovering the animal’s "family history." Advertisements say these "animal counselors" can simply "talk" to the animal over the telephone." 29

 

    Many “Animal Communicators” advertise themselves as Reiki Masters. Again we find that Reiki stems from Eastern religion—this time the Japanese variety. Boldly put, Reiki is a form of witchcraft. The ability to use Reiki is not taught but is a power transferred to students from the Reiki Master “enabling” Reiki practitioners to “tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to improve one's health and enhance the quality of life.” 30

 

    The Bible is very clear on condemning all occultism, all idolatry, and any doctrine that contradicts the very establishment of our Righteous God.

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God” (Deuteronomy 18:10-13).

 

The Power of Horses Heals?

 Autumnandbuttons 449 x 600

    An increasing emphasis is being placed on horses having the power to heal people and the ability to “connect you with your soul; because that's what horses can do when you are willing to embrace what they so naturally and beautifully reveal to you. These magnificent beings, through their presence and grace, can raise our consciousness, peel back the layers to uncover our true selves, and show us how to shine with brilliance.31 For some equestrians, it just seems natural for them to glorify the horse as being capable of supernatural abilities.   Yet, God never intended for horses to hold such a place of honor in our lives. “An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength… I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Psalm 33:17; Isaiah 42:8).

 

    Many wonderful improvements to people’s health have come through riding and handling horses. Horses are indeed marvelous animals, capable of being sensitive and responsive to human emotions, such as, anger, fear, tension, affection, happiness, etc. However, horses are not humans. There are limitations to how horses respond. Horses can sense our emotions, as they sense a fly on their back or a rattlesnake in the brush, yet they do not offer us a solution to our problems.  The God of all comfort wants us to come to Him for our solutions—not to one of His inventions!!!  “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (2 Cor. 1: 3-5).

 

    Instead of being “mystically” powerful in and of themselves, horses reflect their Maker’s power (Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Job 39: 19). The Lord gave us the horse as a gift 32 to subdue, to care for,33 to be enriched by,34 and to train. 35 It was God that created the horse so suitable to man’s benefit to every detail. Even a horse’s movement and length of stride simulates the average human’s ambulation making these equids such suitable therapy modules for special needs riders! God foresaw the need for horses in our generation of surging human disabilities. At the very beginning, our Lord even equipped horses to serve mankind with their unique three dimensional movements to help strengthen humans’ muscular tone, respiration, mental organizational processing, and all the other wonderful benefits horse riders enjoy. While handling horses and riding them can improve people’s mental and physical conditions, yet, only Jesus Christ is the Great Physician.36  It was Christ the Creator Who invented this fabulous therapy tool! 37  

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

 

Good Christians—Hold Fast!

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    In our Christian homes, it is likely we do not have literal “golden calves” to show obeisance to. Yet, we have a responsibility to purge ourselves from any philosophies denying the Sovereignty of God that might be in the books, movies, TV shows, magazines, newspapers and more that we enjoy. Any teaching contradicting what God reveals in the Holy Scriptures—that teaching is not the truth.38 As 2 Corinthians 10:5 teaches us, we are to bring every thought to the obedience of Christ.   This takes some renewing of the mind and discernment as so many idolatrous ideologies can subtly creep into our mindsets before we are aware. 39

 

    An excellent rule of thumb to guard from being “tainted” by mistruths is to be grounded—saturated—in the truth of scripture.40Let the Lord’s literal revelation of scripture, not man’s opinion of scripture, guide your actions.As Christians, we do not need to be fluent in paganism. We just need to be thoroughly equipped in the knowledge of the Lord through His scriptures and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.   “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

    The quest for knowledge, peace and satisfaction for a Christian must always be coupled with discernment and a foundation on scriptural direction.   We are told in the scriptures to be sober and vigilant41, to resist to devil42, to stand fast43, to hold on to the truth44, to take every thought captive,45 to put on and use the armor and weapons that the Lord provides.46 In other words, as Christians we are soldiers in a rigorous spiritual war—in all facets of life.47 

 

    As true Christians, we must be vigorously awake spiritually, actively cultivating righteousness and constantly renewed in the mindset of Jesus Christ. All this is necessary if we are to remain disillusioned and unspotted from the world. We must stay focused on our leader, Jesus Christ to escape the whiles of the devil, who seeks trap us in deceit and doubt concerning the truth of the Bible.

 

    There is an authentic path to Christianity for all people. The path is found in Jesus Christ Who tells us He is “the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).  


Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Dr. James J. S. Johnson for reviewing this article!
 
Photo Credits: Rebekah L. Holt, eQuest Photography; Mrs. Tanya Holt (yawning horse photo)
 
 

References


1. The horse industry is larger than the movie, railroad, furniture and fixture industries.   International Museum of the Horse, “Horses of the World: The Legacy of the Horse: Overview”, http://imh.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&;view=items&cid=228:horses-of-the-world-the-legacy-of-the-horse&id=1711:horses-of-the-world-the-legacy-of-the-horse-overview&Itemid=331 , January 24, 2012

2.Ephesians 5:11

3.John 4:24

4. McFarland, Alex, et. al. Rose Book of Bible Charts 2, Bristol Works, Inc., Torrance, CA , pg. 160-178

5. Quote from 20th Century Indian guru Muktananda, Ref. 2, pg. 168

6.Acts 17:24 17:24

7. Romans 10:9; Isaiah 44:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 15:26

8.Matthew 19:17; James 1:17

9.Romans 10:3-4

10. 2 Timothy 3:16

11.Psalm 32:8; Job 33:16

12.Romans 2:1; Galatians 6:3

13.Romans 10:9-11

14.2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 4:24

15.Isaiah 9:6

16.  James 1:5

17.  Matthew 16:24-25

18.  Matthew 11:29; James 3:13, 17-18

19. Philippians 2:3-4

20.Psalm 1:1-3

21.Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 4:15

22.2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21; Revelation 22:3-4

23.Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 13:21

24.Isaiah 58:10-11

25. Malhotra, Rajiv, “A Hindu View of ‘Christian Yoga’”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hindu-view-of-christian-yoga_b_778501.html , January 26, 2012

26. Hill, Cherry, Becoming An Effective Rider, Storey Communications, Inc., 1992, pg. 19-20

27. Gillies, Alister, “The History of Ki in Asian Martial Arts, http://alister-gillies.suite101.com/the-history-of-ki-in-asian-martial-arts-a202076, January 26, 2012

28. “Christian Martial Arts: The Bible on Fighting Arts”, http://heavenlymanna.net/christianArticle.php?article_id=112 , January 26, 2012

29. Holt, Rebekah, “Animal Souls, Slaughter and the Bible” , January 26, 2012

30. What is Reiki, www.reiki.org, January 26, 2012

31. Reach Out To Horses, http://www.reachouttohorses.com/books.html , January 27, 2012

32.James 1:17

33.Genesis 1:28

34.1 Timothy 6:17

35.James 3:3

36.Jeremiah 33:6

37.Ecclesiastes 3:11

38.Matthew 23:2-33; Matthew 7:13-29

39.Romans 12:2

40.Psalm 119:9-16

41.1 Peter 5:8

42.James 4:7

43.1 Corinthians 16:13

44.1 Timothy 6:12

45.2 Corinthians 10:5

46.2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 6:12-18 Hebrews 4:12

47.Ephesians 6:12