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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! 

            

4k Rebekahand Acey 264 x 386

    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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Diversities of Gifts

Today I sit with my hands in my hair about my tack room. Well, I say tack room. I'm still not entirely sure if my bedroom has tack in it or my tack room has a bed in it. Either way, pandemonium reigns. Somewhere along the line one of the saddle racks fell down and now in order to reach the lunging equipment, you have to clamber over one of the saddles, probably tripping over a pile of halters in the process and rediscovering a lost exercise bandage, a bar of saddle soap older than you are, tiny stirrup irons you didn't even know you had and, quite possibly, Atlantis. It's madness. It's enough to make me wonder why I even have all this stuff and what possessed me to acquire all of it in the first place.

Then, half an hour later, one of the horses will have a temper tantrum and I will think, “I really need a standing martingale right now.” Never mind that I haven't used it for years – each horse needs a different approach, and often, a different piece of equipment.

Non-horsepeople must be utterly bewildered by the array of bits, boots, bridles, blankets, bonnets and miscellaneous gadgets that we horsepeople seem to require in order to complete what appears to be the relatively simple task of staying on top. There are variations of everything, from saddles to rein attachments.

Once again, horse training proves not to be so different from the rest of the world. Just as we have many different pieces of equipment, so there are even more different kinds of people. In fact, seven billion totally different human beings are alive today – there is nothing so diverse as the personalities of mankind. We all have our own ideas, opinions, feelings, passions, hopes, and fears. No two humans have ever been or will ever be identical. We are unique because we are Handmade – created with utmost care by the God Who loves us so. And yet we are all created for one simple purpose; for Him (Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11).

We are all under the same commandments. We are all created, saved, and cherished by the same God. One Lord, one Truth, one Word reigns over all of us. And we all have a common purpose. Why, then, are we all so different? How can a world full of unique people work for a single goal?

The answer lies not in why, but in how. All God's children work for one cause – His glory. And we all work for one reason – His love. But we all work in completely different ways, because we all have different gifts. God has given us strengths and talents for a reason. Each of us has a unique calling for which we were created.

Horse trainers would have a dreadful time if we were stuck with just one piece of equipment. Imagine trying to school a horse to perfection with just a bit. You wouldn't even have a bridle to hold it in the horse's mouth. It would be completely useless. But if you have the bit and a bridle, a saddle, stirrups, girth, saddle blanket – everything else you needed – then the bit would incredibly useful.

Of course, if you were a true master, and you had enough time, you could train a horse without anything. It's a good thing for us that God is a true Master. He can save this world and bring glory to His Name without any of us. He does not need us, but He wants us. All of us. As unique as we are.

If God had made all of us the same, it would be like trying to train that horse with only a bit. So He made us all different, each with something else to bring back to His Kingdom, each with something unique to contribute. Just like the horse trainer with all his diverse equipment, all tools in his hand to achieve the one goal of training that horse. 1 Corinthians 12 says that God has diverse people, all tools in His Hand to achieve the one goal of bringing Him glory. United by Christ, not by similarity.

We are not all called to be prophets. We are not all called to be songwriters. We are not all called to be nurses. I'm a horsewoman. Maybe you are a housewife, pastor, carpenter, accountant, banker, bus driver, architect, doctor, farmer, police officer, CEO, ironworker... Whatever we are, if we are in Christ, we are what God has made us. We do not have to be preachers to get to Heaven. We do not have to be Gospel singers to serve our King.

Whatever we are, we are children of the Most High God. And He can use us, whatever our gifts, whatever our strength, in a unique and marvellous and special way, to bring glory to His amazing Name.

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And Jesus Was Enough

I always love to watch my trainer, the Horse Mutterer, at work, usually taking notes in my head so that I can try whatever he’s doing when I get home. But not today. Today’s small miracle is still so far beyond my capabilities that all I do is lend a hand and watch in wonder: it’s going to be a long time before I try this by myself.

I hold the little mare’s head while the Mutterer runs a soft rope around her neck, tying it so that it can’t slip tight, then gently slips a loop around each hind pastern. The little mare trembles, rolling her eyes so that I can see the whites, her ears constantly moving. She’s supposed to be trained, but I don’t want to know what her “trainer” did to her. Beat her most likely, maybe twisted her ears, yelled in her delicate little face. She has a fear about her that goes way beyond the ordinary nervousness of an unhandled horse. Even the lightest and kindest touch makes her flinch. I can see it now as I try to stroke her neck; the big muscles jump under my hand, too scared to hold still, too scared to flee. Eventually, I give up. She’s beyond human comfort now.

So I think, anyway, but the Mutterer has a plan. “Stick on the same side as me and hang onto her head.”

“Okay,” I say doubtfully. He’s usually right, so I do as I’m told.

The Mutterer has the ends of the rope around the mare’s legs in his hands. “Okay, girly,” he says to the mare, who trembles. “Easy now.” Then he pulls.

The ropes spring tight around the mare’s hindlegs, pulling them underneath her. She fights, throwing her head against the halter, but off balance she can’t yank even my weight around. Scrabbling at the grass with her forelegs, eyes wide, nostrils flaring, she panics. But the Mutterer leans calmly on the ropes and her hindlegs fold up underneath her. She sits down on the deep grass and stares at us, gasping. The Mutterer, still as calm as a monolith (the mare and I are equally spooked), leans against her shoulder and she eases slowly down onto her side.

“Good girl.” He puts a hand on her neck, but she’s not struggling. She quivers slightly, breath racing. He rubs her neck and shoulders and face and flanks, speaking to her slowly, explaining to me as I sit in the grass and stare. Because as the Mutterer explains, the mare relaxes. Her wide eyes soften. Her breathing slows down. The Mutterer loosens the ropes around her legs, but she doesn’t kick out. She is at her most vulnerable, lying on her side with – in her mind – her most powerful and violent enemy towering over her, but she’s relaxing.

The Mutterer hears my question before I ask it. “Because we didn’t hurt her once in this whole process,” he says. The mare gives a long sigh. “We use soft, thick lunging lines that don’t burn her, and we do it in the open where she can’t hurt herself, on thick grass so that even if she falls it won’t hurt.”

I nod. The mare went down, but she went down slowly, without being able to fight hard enough to pull any muscles.

Then, the mare licks and chews, an ultimate sign of equine submission and relaxation. Now the Mutterer pats her, softly at first, then hard enough to make the thudding noise most horses enjoy. And the mare doesn’t flinch. She lies still and lets herself feel a human’s love for the first time.

I’m still a little incredulous about the whole process right up until the moment when the Mutterer takes off the ropes and the mare gets slowly to her feet. Without a backward glance, he walks away. And without a second thought, without a halter on, in an open paddock, in the deep soft grass, away from her equine herdmates, the mare follows him.

It made sense when he explained it. The mare was terrified. She understood only two things about men: that they would unfailingly hurt her, and that if she fought or fled for her life she might avoid the pain. To gain her trust, we had to reverse both those principles. She had to believe that men were stronger than her. And she had to believe that they would never do her harm.

Pulling her down did just that. She was put into her most vulnerable position, shown that she could fight as she would but humans would always be stronger. (If it were not so, horses would still be wild; we have a God-given dominion over them [Genesis 1:26]. The bad part is that so many of us are tyrants and dictators instead of good rulers). But even at her most vulnerable, even at her most afraid, there was no pain. The humans didn’t hurt her or threaten her. In her darkest moment, there was just a gentle touch and a quiet voice. And when the force was taken away – when the ropes were removed – the little mare did what all horses do. She chose her leader, and she chose the leader that had proven his strength and his good intentions. Then she followed him.

And it probably saved the little mare’s life. The few minutes of fear and worry, now eclipsed by the relaxation and submission that flooded every line of her features, had been worth it. The mare had been a worthless, wild creature, doomed to the dark future of every useless and dangerous horse. But now, she had a second chance.

I was silent for a long time afterwards, because I know the feeling. Because I, too, have been that horse lying on the grass and gasping in terror. My legs tied up. A weight on my neck. Unable to fight back, unable to do anything to prevent my worst fear from coming true. It was a dark hour, and I was most afraid. I could not understand why I was suddenly so helpless or why the strange, higher being would force me so, any more than the little mare could understand why the man had pulled her down.

But in that darkness, in that fear, in that helplessness, there was no pain from the One Who had put me there. Just a gentle touch and a quiet voice: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) And I knew He was God, and I knew He was all-powerful, almighty and all-knowing, that He could crush me like a bug where I lay. And I knew, more overwhelmingly than I have ever known, that He loved me.

You see, in that moment, it felt as though I had nothing. My herdmates felt far away and unable to save me. My own strength had failed me entirely. All I had was the loving touch of Jesus as He held me, and His soft voice as He stilled the storm inside. I had nothing but Him, and He was enough.

Horses and people have the same clockwork inside. Because when He let me rise again and gave me my freedom, when I saw the open field and the rest of the world waiting, I looked up and I saw Him. He Who was stronger than me, Who loved me. So I did what all humans do: I chose my Leader. And I followed Him.

And I am now no longer a worthless, wild creature. I am no longer doomed to a dark future. I have been given a second chance.

I took it.

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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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On Chastening

Today, my old suspicion has been reaffirmed: an undisciplined horse is just as dangerous than a completely wild one.

It didn't help that the horse in question was well over sixteen hands high, a fiery young filly with plenty of blood. As beautiful as breaking dawn, the filly moved like moonlight on ocean waves; with effortless, rippling grace. She also knew exactly how strong she was, and exactly how small a human was in comparison to her power.

I followed my trainer, the inestimable Horse Mutterer, to her paddock expecting an absolute rebel, judging by the owner's description of her behaviour: she was aggressive and pushy, panicked in the stable, and had a nasty habit of rearing up and flipping over. The filly put up her ears when she heard us coming and cantered over, bright-eyed, friendly, and I began to think perhaps the owner was exaggerating. But she just didn't stop. She thudded to a halt only when her chest hit the top bar of the fence and I took a surprised step back as she nearly headbutted me with a head about the same size as my whole torso. Whereupon the owner diagnosed her own horse's problem in one sentence along the lines of: “She's so nice most of the time.”

We got more background information as the filly was led to the round pen, carefully studying every move made by both groom and horse. The filly had been orphaned at only a few days old; by a gargantuan and most laudable effort, the owner had successfully raised her to a large, strong and healthy young horse. Obviously, the owner cared deeply about this filly. Raising an orphan is no mean feat, but somewhere along the line pity had crept in and discipline had promptly signed out.

Now, the sweet orphan baby had turned into a menace. At first, as the Mutterer lunged her, she seemed just fine; content to trot around the pen for a few laps. Then, bored of this, she came to a halt. The Mutterer moved to encourage her on and she swung around, took careful aim and double-barrelled, both hind hooves flashing out in one deadly movement. Being the Mutterer, he had seen it coming a mile away and the kick failed to connect. But with that kind of vicious, head-height kick, you would be lucky to get away with broken ribs or a shattered face.

The filly was a typical spoiled brat; obviously adored by her owner (or else the owner wouldn't have looked for help when she needed it), but in complete, manipulative control of everyone around her. What had gone wrong? It was evident that she was well loved and well cared for, never roughly handled, yet still she was dangerous. The answer was simple: she needed to be taught respect. She needed to be disciplined – to be chastened.

Most well-behaved horses, mine included, have felt the nasty end of a dressage whip in their lives, with the result that they have a healthy respect for everyone around them. How, I hear you ask, could a good horseman possibly bring themselves to lay a lash upon the horses if they love them? Because they love them. They chasten them because they care about them. For the same reason as the Lord chastens all of us.

Yes, sometimes we can all be just as bratty as that big filly. We can be opinionated and stubborn, demanding our own way and throwing squealing, bucking temper tantrums when it doesn't happen. Sometimes we're so set on what we want that we nearly kill ourselves trying to get it. Other times we don't care who we're hurting, or how badly we're hurting them, as long as we don't have to do what we don't want to. We've all been selfish and spiteful in our lives; ever since the fall of Adam it has been a part of us that we will have to learn to let go of. And God knows that to learn this, we have to be chastened. Just as a loving father reprimands his child, our loving God reprimands His children.

So next time His righteous anger is upon us and He disciplines us with the consequences of our selfish actions, let us not be disheartened or resentful. Let us accept the chastening, repent and ask forgiveness, for He is a generous and loving God Who is quick to forgive. Then let us thank Him for His amazing love and try again, and do it better. If we are being chastened, let us know that this is a sign that He truly loves us. For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth (Hebrews 12:6).

Glory to the King.

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