The Hoof Print
Horse News. Christian Living. Equine Education
The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type
God Used a Horse
Rebekah L. Holt
At this present stage of life, my every day is not orbiting the horse circuit. Like many adults, my course is filled with responsibilities and much unlooked for change, change, change that are all in accord with the Sovereignty of God. There have been times I have even so much as declared myself as a "has been" when thinking of my present equestrian endeavors.
Yet, while typing at this keyboard, I can still see the mellowing scars of yesteryears moving rhythmatically with motioning knuckles. Tributes to adventures of working horses. These hands themselves could tell various stories to match the various scars of both service and stupidity!
It has been a time of recounting the years horses have been a part of my life. Though horses are by no means “a thing of the past”, reminiscing of a very equidae immersed period in my life has brought to mind the many lessons I have learn. Most of those lessons, the Lord has used the horse as a catalyst to draw me closer to Himself. Just as many medicines require a “spoon full of sugar” to go down pleasantly, I think the Lord used horses as an agent to sweeten some of the lessons He has been teaching me.
I have often expressed that if Creation leads to Christ, then horses can be an instrument of the Lord to teach us of Himself. It is true! God uses the things we love to draw us with a magnetic attraction to Himself! The Lord also prepared the very gifts He gives to captivate us and to reflect the character, nature and goodness of our Creator and Giver in a way we can "take home" or digest. As Scripture simplifies it, "Go to the ant." Creation does declare the glory of God and we have much to learn from it!
Thinking over how the Lord has used horses in my life, it has been a growing desire to write down some of the stories and recount the many blessings of a very unique opportunity the Lord allowed me. I hope you will enjoy this journey...
1# As a type of "introduction" to this series, I dusted the cobwebs off this this old little story written for children. For some of you, this is old, repeat material and you'll smell the mothballs! This was written when I was 21--the very year eQuest For Truth began!
Created To Love Horses: A Life Not By Chance
Rebekah L. Holt
In the beginning, when God created all things in just six days, He thought about you and me. He made the universe, the earth, and all living things—the animals and the first man, Adam, and woman, Eve—so one day we could enjoy life.
The Creator has made each of us for a special purpose. Before you or I were born, He already knew what He had planned for our lives.
Let’s look through my scrapbook. It records The Creator’s unfolding blue print—a Master Plan—for my life.
When I was just a small baby in my mother’s womb, my parents didn’t know what I would grow up to be. My grandparents wondered whether I’d be another boy. My older brothers hoped I’d like trucks, frogs, and Lego blocks.
Only The Creator knew what I was made for. He created me to love horses.
My love for horses started early. I was only a toddler with a sunbonnet and lacey dress when I stole away to sit on my family’s backyard pony. My mother was frantic, but “Sugar Plum” lay fast asleep, stretched in the warm Spring sunshine. I waved a dimpled hand to the slumbering pony while Mom carried me to safety.
As I grew, my parents taught me that The Creator wanted me to know Him. They read the Bible to me. I learned about God’s perfect creation at the very beginning of time. Then we read about Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Their sin caused bad things in the world to begin happening. People, animals, and all creation started to grow old and die. Aches and pains were caused by sin too.
As my parents and I talked about pain and suffering, I recalled crying when old Doc, my brother’s horse, kicked me. That was very painful! My leg throbbed so badly; I thought it would fall off.
Then Mom and Dad told me about Jesus Christ. “God does not want us to stay sinful. He does not like us to suffer or experience pain. That’s why He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered for all man’s sin on the cross and rose from the dead that every sin—yours and mine—could be forgiven. When we ask forgiveness for our sins and ask Jesus to be our Savior, God promises in the Bible that we will one day live with Him in Heaven, far away from death, pain and suffering.”
I wanted to know Jesus Christ and live with Him in Heaven. My parents prayed with me as I asked Jesus to be my Savior and forgive my sins. I was just six years old when I became a Christian.
When I turned ten years old, I longed to have my own horse. Daydreaming, I would doodle pictures of "my horse” and write stories too. I liked to read about Jesus riding on a donkey and look at my Bible’s pictures of Jesus’ horse in the Book of Revelation—proud, white, rearing. I thought I’d like to ride a horse like that!
As the desire to own a horse grew stronger, my parents encouraged me to pray. “Bekah, God knows what He has planned for your life. If He wills for you to own a horse, He will open the doors for you. Let’s ask Him to guide and keep us within His Master Plan for your life.”
As we waited and prayed together, my parents provided opportunities for me to earn money for “Bekah's Horse Fund.”
The horse fund grew as I learned to work diligently and be responsible. My tenth year felt like it would never end. Sometimes it seemed that I’d never get a horse of my own. But The Creator had a plan for my life. Right before my eleventh birthday, He blessed the desire of my heart.
I’ll never forget seeing my filly for the first time. Her eyes were big and brown just like chocolate cookies. On her forehead was a crooked white star. Her rich, sorrel coat was splashed with mud from the wet pen she was kept in. I had never seen such a beautiful horse—Acey was mine.
When I turned twelve, I learned that The Creator equips us for every task that He has for us to do. I sure didn’t like my healthy size or big feet. But my Creator knew I needed a sturdy frame to train Acey, who was now two years old.
Setting to the task of teaching Acey to ride, I read books about training horses and my dad, who had good horse sense, gave me advice. He held Acey when I straddled her for the first time.
Acey was the perfect first "student" for a young trainer. She never bucked me off, but I still lost my balance. Once I went right over Acey’s head after I said “Whoa", and she really stopped! She just waited for me to get back in the saddle. I wondered, was I the trainer or maybe Acey was training me?
As I grew older, the Lord continued to guide my life.
He gave me enough horses to fill barns. There was Brisk, the chestnut colt I bought when fourteen. When I sat on Brisk the first time, it felt like riding a toothpick! He was so tall and slender. Scout, a golden palomino with a flowing white mane, was the first horse to buck me off when I was seventeen. It didn’t hurt as much as I expected! Then there was Bucky. He was a toy-like buckskin Shetland. Together we won a cart driving championship our very first show. Hosanna and Benevolence, adorable Shetland fillies, were born on my 20th birthday just the color I wanted them to be. That was a happy birthday!
Now I’m all grown up and I still love horses. Many horses have trotted by with my childhood, but the horse I prayed for as a little girl is still my favorite!
Acey and I are now horse riding instructors. An army of young equestrians arrives weekly to ride Acey and call me, “Miss Rebekah.” I guide their horsemanship skills as Acey teaches them to trust and ride with confidence.
These children were created, just like me, to love horses. Many want their own horses just like I did at their age. Yet not all understand that The Creator made them and that He has a unique plan for each of their lives.
Across the backs of horses, I sometimes share the news of Jesus, the Savior, to freckled or chubby faces that don’t know about Him. Their eyes grow large with awe of our Lord who made the horse so magnificent. We enjoy talking about The Creator’s amazing design of the horse’s body. Together we discover that according to Genesis 1:28, we were made to enjoy and care for our horses.
Looking through my scrapbook, I see that God has used my tender, childhood years to prepare me for what I was made to do. My life's blue print is still unfolding, but so far I’ve lived an abundant and fruitful life.
The Bible says that The Creator knows what plans He has for each of us. He even knew us before we were born. Our God has made us all with a unique purpose and a one-of-a-kind future―a life not by chance.
I know without a doubt, God created me to love horses…when a foal nuzzles my face with a velvety nose…Acey and I fly like the wind across the prairie…and I see the rich smiles of children astride a horse’s back. In the beginning, it was all part of His Master Plan.
I wonder what our Creator has made you for. Were you created to love horses?
Last weekend, I took one of my favourite horses in the universe to a jumping lesson off-site. She is a young horse and conditions were not ideal, but she was amazing. Sure, she threw a little buck here and there out of purest excitement, but she jumped everything we put in front of her and tried her heart out. There were several moments in which she was afraid, but I was there with a determined voice in her ear and a firm leg against her side and no hesitation, so she went for me. There were several moments in which I was afraid, but she was there with a powerful thrust of her hindlegs and a forward set of her ears, so I went with her. Our partnership, from the outside, looks unremarkable; just a little grey mare obeying her rider. But on the inside, we are more than partners, we are friends, there for each other, rooting for each other, and working together to achieve our common goal. I may not fall on her neck kissing her each time she pleases me, and she may not neigh joyously at the very sight of me, but we love one another with a quiet constance. It is a strange and unlikely relationship, this mutual respect between man and beast, but one that I treasure.
How strange we are, us humans. We love, with an abiding passion, a half-ton animal that cannot speak; something with four legs and monocular vision. Yet at the same time, we fear and hate members of our own kind if they look a little different. History is pock-marked and scarred by dark deeds done in fear and hatred of those who happened not to be the right skin colour, the right gender, or the right origin; people who didn't look or act or speak like other people who happened to be stronger than them. Civil wars have been raged, concentration camps filled, apartheid declared. And while in many places, many people have made many huge differences, the old hatred of all that is different lingers on.
I am a South African. Born three years after our fondly-nicknamed Madiba and F. W. de Klerk put an end to apartheid, I should know it only as history. Yet one can walk anywhere in South Africa and realise that apartheid still smoulders in hearts and minds all over our country, remaining in an old wound called racism. And with every government survey demanding that you fill in your race (where is the box marked “Human”?), every angry glance thrown across the street, every car window nervously rolled up as the “wrong” kind of person goes past, that old wound's healing slows.
And yet we, the same people who shake their fists, spit as they cross the road, or hug their purses and children nearer at the sight of others, we will walk up to a huge and dangerous animal that doesn't speak any human language, mount up and trust it with our lives.
So if we can love a beast that could kill us in a breath, we can love those who we have warred with in the past. If we can love a creature with a furry coat, we can love those with a different skin colour. If we can love an animal that has no speech, we can love those who speak a different language. If we can love a herd animal that functions in a society we barely understand, we can love the people who have different cultures to us.
In short, brothers and sisters, if we can love the horse, then we can love one another. We are not so different after all. We are all human (Acts 17:26). Let us celebrate the amazing diversity of God's creation and accept what He has so fearfully and wonderfully made. The world is truly divided with only one line; God's children, and the lost; and we as God's children are called to love everybody. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Glory to the King.
The iconic zebra; a strange-looking creature, instantly recognisable even to people living continents away from this species’ natural habitat. These comical beasts are made distinctive by their striking pattern of stripes. They seem ridiculously out of place in the tall, tan grasslands where they make their home.
But zebras, like all of us, were created. God designed the zebra to survive in its environment, and He gave it many features that enable it to thrive. Stripes included.
Zebras belong to the horse family (genus Equus), as well as donkeys, Przewalski’s horses and of course our own domestic horses. They range throughout the grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa, where they feed primarily on grasses but also occasionally browse bushes and trees. This is also the range of many large predators such as big cats and African wild dogs, which prey on foals as well as fully-grown animals. Zebras defend themselves against these predators by running away. Their outstanding eyesight, very similar to a horse’s, and efficiency in running aids them in this defence. When cornered, or in the case of a mare defending her foal, zebras will attack with hooves and teeth.
While there are variances between the species, in general zebras are around 13 hands high and weigh between 350kg and 450kg.
Why the Stripes?
All zebra species have stripes, and most of them are black-and-white. Albino zebras, which are very rare and unlikely to survive in the wild, have cream-and-white stripes and young zebra foals have brown stripes that darken to black as they mature.
It has long been debated whether a zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes. DNA testing has eventually clarified that in fact they have a black base coat with the white stripes on top, similar to the genetics of pinto patterning in horses.
While the stripes appear comic and make very little sense to the casual observer, God’s genius and creative design is evident in them. They serve many important functions, not least being – surprisingly – camouflage. It may seem that a black-and-white striped animal would stand out like a sore thumb in tawny grass, but even from moderate distances the stripes serve to break up the zebra’s outline. Some plains zebras also have brown stripes between the black stripes, which serve to merge them with the grass. Zebras are difficult to spot in tall grass – harder than the solid black wildebeest or even the dark brown blesbuck they share their habitat with.
In a herd of fleeing zebra, the churning mass of stripes also serves to confuse a predator, making it hard for the carnivore to pick out a single animal and strike. Interestingly, this coat pattern has also been linked to repelling many large biting fly species. Studies have shown that the striped pattern is less attractive to flies than a solid pattern. This is important in Africa, where fly species such as the tsetse fly carry deadly diseases.
Types of Zebra
Zebras come in two separate subgenuses, Hippotigris and Dolichohippus. The Hippotigris subgenus consists of smaller, more horse-like animals; the plains zebra and the mountain zebra. The Dolichohippus subgenus has only one species, the Grévy’s zebra, which is larger and more donkey-like.
The Plains Zebra
The smallest and most common zebra species is the plains zebra, Equus quagga. Of these there are six subspecies, one of which has gone extinct. The quagga, Equus quagga quagga, was the only zebra with nearly no stripes. A horse-like creature with a mostly brown coat and only a few white stripes on the head and neck, the last quagga died in 1883.
The other five subspecies of the plains zebra, however, are flourishing. Large numbers of them can be seen in many African national parks, such as Serengeti in Tanzania and Kruger National Park in South Africa. In South Africa, they are also kept and bred with great success on many game farms and private reserves.
Plains zebra stand about 11 to 14 hands high and weigh 175-385kg, with males slightly larger. Their social structure is very similar to a horse’s. They exist mostly in groups of a stallion with some mares and their young foals; colts and stallions without any mares form bachelor groups.
While zebras as a species have never been domesticated, specimens of the plains zebra have been successfully tamed and trained either to harness or saddle. In general, they are nervous, wild and tend to panic under pressure, so unsuitable for domestication. They were useful at some times as cavalry mounts in Africa due to their high resistance to African diseases that easily wiped out horses.
The Mountain Zebra
Mountain zebras (Equus zebra) occur in two subspecies, the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and the Hartmann’s mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae). Native to Southern African countries (Angola, Namibia and South Africa), the mountain zebra is slightly larger than its plains-dwelling cousin.
Mountain zebras can be distinguished from plains zebras by their stripes. While plains zebras’ stripes reach all the way down across their bellies, mountain zebras only have stripes down their flanks, with bare white bellies.
The Hartmann’s mountain zebra is slightly larger than its Cape cousin; Cape mountain zebra mares are slightly larger than stallions. Their social structure is similar to the plains zebra, although their herds usually consist of smaller family groups.
In the 1930s, mountain zebras were critically endangered, with only 100 individuals left. Successful conservation efforts have raised these numbers to just under 3000, but the mountain zebra is still classified as a vulnerable species.
The Grévy’s Zebra
The only species of the subgenus Dolichohippus, the Grévy’s zebra is distinct from other zebra species because of its size and more donkey-like appearance. Like the mountain zebra, its stripes do not extend all the way over the belly, and it has longer ears than the other species.
The Grévy’s zebra is the largest living wild equid. Weighing as much as 450kg, it can stand sixteen hands high – larger than even most feral horses, and much larger than other wild equids. It is a northern-roaming zebra living primarily in Ethiopia and Kenya.
This species of zebra is made unique by its social structure, which is different to most equids. Grévy’s zebras do not form permanent herds. Mares will remain with their foals for about a year, and small temporary groups of mares with very young foals may be formed, but often they will roam alone. Stallions have territories that they will defend, but mares wander from territory to territory as they please.
The Grévy’s zebra is considered an endangered species. In less than 30 years, there had been a 75% decline in their numbers from about 15 000 in the 1970s to around 3 500 in the early 2000s. It is now a protected species in both Ethiopia and Kenya. Luckily for the zebras, they are quite easy to breed in captivity. Interestingly, a very successful captive breeding program has been conducted in Florida, USA, where over 70 foals have been born.
Zebras: Intelligently Designed
Who would have thought to give a beast stripes to deter the flies? God’s design knows no limits. His design of the zebra is but one small example of His creative genius and sense of beauty. When a herd of wild zebra charge across the grassland, splendidly striped and ablaze with power, one cannot help but admire the magnificent God Who created them. Indeed, He made the world, and it is good.
Glory to the King.