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The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type

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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!

 

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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! 

            

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    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!   

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                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.

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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?   

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Be of Good Comfort

Those who know my little grey mare now might not have recognised her when I first started schooling her.

Lately, the adjective I've been using most to describe her is “brave”. And she is – brave as the day; she'll jump pretty much anything from any angle, run over any ground, and snort at any horse in the warmup arena, no matter how big it is. She'll deal with traffic, trains, runaway youngsters, balloons, music, cross-country fences, water, dykes, applause, anything really (except for baboons, pigs and dressage markers, the worst monsters in the known universe).

But five years ago, the brave grey mare was a terrified little dark roan filly who had absolutely no self-confidence. We had many a battle, she and I, on the driveway as I tried to convince her that she could go on a hack alone and she protested vehemently that she couldn't. There was never any malice in her, but when I pushed her forward, she would plant her neat little front feet next to each other and refuse to budge. Should I insist, she'd rear.

Assuming we did actually manage to get down the driveway, the spooking would begin. Everything was terrifying. Trees, rocks, cattle, leaves, tall grass, holes in the ground – anything even remotely frightening required snorting, leaping, shying, bucking and general blind panic.

In the arena, though, she was totally fine. She did whatever I wanted, however I wanted it, quiet as a sheep. I could put beginners on her. But taking her out just wasn't a safe option.

For years I would keep saying that the little grey mare was simply one of those horses who doesn't like to go out of their comfort zone. Her comfort zone was the arena, and she was okay there and she saw absolutely no reason to ever leave it. It took years of work, carefully pushing the boundaries, showing her that she'd be okay outside, before she would hack out alone.

Now, of course, she hacks out alone snorting like a dragon and telling the world to get out of her way or else. Even after being trailered off to a completely new location, she's fiery and fearless. Perhaps skittish for a few minutes, and then her usual unstoppable self.

“She's stretched her comfort zone so nicely,” I remarked to my trainer, the inimitable Horse Mutterer, after a particularly good cross-country lesson. “It seems as though she doesn't mind having the boundaries pushed any more.”

“Oh,” quoth the Mutterer, “it's not that. You are her comfort zone.”

It was an illuminating moment. And it's true: through the years of working together, the mare and I have become each other's comfort zones. When I'm on her, I know I'm going to be all right because she's on my side. And when she feels me in the saddle, she's comfortable and relaxed, because she knows I won't let anything hurt her.

So today the Lord said to me, “Be of good comfort: make Me your comfort zone.” Would it not be amazing if God was our comfort zone? If we always felt safe with Him around, no matter what we were facing? If we always knew that we'd be just fine as long as He was with us? If we felt brave enough to do anything, to say anything, to take on anything for Him because we knew that He was with us and would let nothing hurt us?

Brethren, this is all true. Our God is our Protector and nothing outside of His will can ever befall us once we are covered by His blood, as we are inseparable from Him (Romans 8:39). He has not left us comfortless; His comfort is with us in the form of the Holy Spirit (John 14:18). He is above all things and has power over all things; nothing can ever stand against Him. And He is on our side.

So let's make God our comfort zone. Let's make Him our safe place, so that no matter what our circumstances, we always know we can stand boldly for Him. Let us let His perfect love cast out fear. For when the Lord is our comfort zone, we will always be in a place where we are brave enough to do His will. Because Jesus is with us always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).

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George Washington: The All American Equestrian

New Article on Discover Equus!

Every year on our calendar is marked a day when the most venerated figure in American history was born: George Washington.  "The Father of Our Country" was born February 22, 1732, a true native to Virginia. Yet, did you know that among the many titles that are attributed to this fascinating American leader includes "The Father of the American Mule"? Did you know that he was an importer of a rare breed of Spanish donkeys that were so valuable that only by the King of Spain's permission could such an exportation be granted?  Did you know that his favorite wartime horse was named "Nelson?" 

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Read for yourself a fascinating history: "George Washington: The All American Equestrian" on Discover Equus!

 

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If We Can Love

 

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.

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Building the Bond

Only thirteen months old, the chestnut colt is already a horse – more than 14.2 hands – at my best guess. Neat little ears tipped towards me, he watches me as I approach him; a lanky mixture of curiosity and fear, awkwardness and grace. His long legs look too thin to hold up his powerful hindquarters. The impossible slope of his shoulder looks strangely out of place against his skinny baby neck, which is weighed down at the other end by the one part of him that glows with nobility; his head. The wide white blaze should make him look placid, but instead it only attracts attention to the perfect wide brow, huge bright eyes, tiny mouth, and chiselled features. His expression is the most contrasting of all. The pricked ears say curiosity, but nervousness gleams in his eyes.

I put my hand his neck; the muscle tenses as if he wants to flinch, then relaxes when he feels the gentleness of the touch. “It’s okay, buddy. I’m not going to hurt you.” Words that I will repeat over and over, because the chestnut colt has been mine now for seven days.

My first warmblood, the huge colt is bred in the purple and looks like it, especially when he drifts across the ground as if his already bulky frame weighs nothing. His flashy sabino markings make him even more eye-catching than he already is anyway, with his expressive face and the promise of reaching over seventeen hands. He was well bred, well raised and trained by my own instructor; it was no surprise that he was quickly snapped up by a lady looking for her next competition horse. It was just a freak accident that he injured his left hindleg. The resultant scar and worries about his soundness made him difficult to sell, and that’s how the beautiful chestnut colt became mine.

He looks at me nervously. I know my trainer has never hurt him, but he doesn’t know me and for a lonely baby in a new world, that’s all reason he needs to be afraid. He trusts me enough that I can catch him, lift up his feet and brush his face; in fact he is perfectly easy to handle, but a fear lurks beneath the obedience. I know that as soon as something frightens him, he’ll think he has to fend for himself and run: barring that, fight. I wish there was a way I could tell him that he doesn’t need to be afraid, that I won’t let anything hurt him, and will look after him now. But there is none. So I show him instead, with slow movements and gentle words, a soft touch and a strict leadership. The small terrors of a fly spray bottle or a rainy day don’t make him quite so panicky as they used to. And one day the tiny steps we’re taking now – getting him to stand still while I groom him, showing him that rubbing his ears is pleasant, not scary – will all add up when we face the jumps or the dressage arena. One day he will be not a scared colt, but a conqueror.

I run my hand up one of his ears; instead of flinching, he tips his head towards me, enjoying the caress. Little steps.

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Every time I look into the eyes of the chestnut colt, I see myself. Join-up has been done; I will follow God, however tremulously, where He leads me. I will stand firm, with however much terror, when the storms begin to break around me. There are still things of this world that scare me, things that I don’t want to face even though I know He is bigger than any of them, that His love is stronger than death itself. But God knows this even better than I know it, so while I grow He holds me close and shows me that I can trust Him no matter what.

I can’t tell the colt that he can trust me, but I know God could tell me, if He so chose. Actions, however, are so much stronger than words that God doesn’t just tell me that I can trust Him – He shows me, day by day. While little tribulations come my way, He is always the one constant and unchanging reassurance, the One who never leaves me. I do not become stronger; I just realise more and more how strong He is.

And while today the knowledge of His strength only tides me through little trials – just as my colt can only handle small things, like back boots or a camera flash – one day I will know Him well enough that I could face the entire world and not be afraid. For in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us (Romans 8:37).

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