The Hoof Print
Horse News. Christian Living. Equine Education
The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type
In a memorable passage of Job 39, God uses a horse (and a donkey) out of 14 mentioned animals as a reflection of God's own power and sovereignty.
God asked Job:
"Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He gallops into the clash of arms. He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; Nor does he turn back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him, The glittering spear and javelin. He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded. At the blast of the trumpet he says, 'Aha!' He smells the battle from afar, The thunder of captains and shouting. Job 39: 19-25
There is an ounce of God's majesty that is reflected in His creature, the horse. A poise of dignity, spirit of challenge and an embodiment of strength dazzles our eyes as we watch horses move at liberty. Even a pudgy "Old Paint," when suddenly spooked, looks almost regal with head erect, nostrils flaring and tail up!
Strength. Thundering hooves. Mocking fear. Galloping through hazards. Devouring the distance with fierceness and rage. Thinking back 15 years, many horses could fit that category in my repertoire. Yet one story stands out specifically of knowing first hand how such strength and "mocking of fear" was encapsulated in two completely different horses as we raced down a center line of a busy Farmer Market Road!
The story begins...
It was the year I turned 15. We lived about 8 miles between two small Texas towns. Our home was a quaint, old farm house we had remodeled. The little patch of acreage was just 10 acres but we were surrounded by the aromas of East Texan pine trees and rolling hills of Bermuda. I often rode along the wide shoulders of the Farmer Market Roads and County Roads in a 5-6 mile loop. Many a day Acey and I trotted a good 2-3 miles to ride on Mr. Sonny's thousand acre cattle ranch. Or I might just decide to use my key to the gate of the 800 acres I was give special permission to ride on, not too far from our home.
This morning, I had saddled up Acey for a good 6 mile ride. We were to be joined by Sugar and her owner Billy Jo to ride along the busy Farmer Market Road. The path had wide shoulders and very hilly. It was just the type of weather that made you want to soak in all the sunshine possible.
Sugar was Billy Jo's barrel racing mare. Though just one of many horses Billy Jo's family owned, Sugar was treated with a bit more care than the family usually gave their horses. On the whole, the family was negligent. Horse hooves were to grow to a point of altering locomotion. Much of their breeding stock needed to be culled. The facilities were unsafe, dingy and not maintained. Yet, somehow--despite these tremendous set backs--the family had been able to get their hands on a few well bred Quarter Horses and raise some talented performance horses. Sugar was by far the most beautiful horse they owned. Surrounded by rusting pens that were a hodge podge of portable panels, tarps, tires, old tin sheds and weeds, Sugar was certainly a diamond in a very rough setting. Yet her quarters were so cramped. All her pent up energy was funneled into a sour, grouchy "I will bite you" disposition.
On the flipside, Acey was perfect! With all the loyalty and blinded love that engulfs a first horse relationship, I held Acey as the model of perfection, a standard to measure all other horses by. She was a happy horse that seemed to enjoy living and giving much joy to my life. Looking back, my fascination with this horse wasn't too far from the truth. Despite Acey's apparent conformational flaws that led to her lameness that I am no longer blinded to, Acey was just a wonderful, all-around horse that was a gift from the Lord. No, she didn't flex at the poll--but I didn't know that was a big deal then and it wasn't needed. And we learned together and some my happiest memories and most adventurous dreams were on my friend Acey!
But getting back to the story...
Acey and I trotted up the road to our rendezvous, Sugar was there in all her glory, ready to go, chomping at the bit, anxious to charge forward. Acey and I just ambled behind Billy Jo and Sugar for the first half of the ride, careful to be alert for spook hazards.
Billy Jo was confident in the saddle, little heeding the caution that my natural timidity always kept me from ever being too relaxed on the trail. Though Acey was "perfect" - she was capable of spooking at a surprise bunny or an unknown rustling in the woods.
It was uneventful. We talked about horses, watched the vehicles pass us by, drank in the sunshine and ambled along.
Relaxed more than ever, Billy Jo took her feet out the stirrups as we passed the residence of Duke and his wife Fancy. Their house pin pointed the last two mile stretch for our ride.
Duke and Fancy were a unique couple I knew only from a distance. Duke was a massive, muscular man a little later and crustier in life. He was a hairstylist and specialized in permanents and hair color for little old ladies. Thinking of the size of his hands, his towering 6'4" height and the rugged, western image he cut - it was the LAST thing you would have suspected. All I really knew about Duke was that he was a coarse beer drinking man who's only redeeming quality, I thought, was that he owned a fabulously conformed Quarter Horse halter bred stallion.
As Billy Jo and I walked past Duke's place, something in the bushes bolted -- and so did our horses. I was able to get Acey in check, but in the blink of an eye, Billy Jo was on the ground and her mare was galloping straight back the way we came...up the busy Farmer Market Road!
My heart raced!
In my youthful ignorance, I sped Acey in the most hair raising chase, trying to catch Sugar, leaving Billy Jo far behind.
It was just like the westerns. All I needed was a pistol, bandana and a lariat rope! I was in a state of growing alarm. Sugar, who was running with all her might, would run out in the busy road, or worse, get out on the open Highway that was only about a 1/4 mile further north. We could get hit! Or maybe she would just run away and never stop.
As the two horse race sped along, Acey and I were gaining ground on Sugar. She did take the dreaded turn on the Farmer Market road (though not toward the Highway) and I worked to stay on her tail.
Heart was pumping, hooves flying and cars were approaching. And Rebekah was praying audibly! "Help me Jesus!" Acey just couldn't quite get up to the racing mare's speed, try as we did. And Sugar was as inspired for freedom as a released convict!
The race continued - straight down the middle of the center line--literally. Sugar was on the center line and Acey and I were right behind her. We were in a low spot and I never looked back - but cresting the hill ahead of us, I could see vehicles coming!
We couldn't head the mare off. Then we came to the rail bridge. Vehicles began to stop or slow down. Sugar halted at one point to rest while Acey and I, with a couple of men on foot tried to head off the escape mare. We thought we had her cornered. Yet, she evaded all our attempts for capture and no sooner did I have hold on the rein--she took off like an escape artist.
By this time, I had worked myself up into a real panic. We were getting no where. I was worried about Acey. I was scared to death. And I was practically yelling "Help me Jesus" every 5 seconds at this point! Where we going to be hit by a vehicle? And what happened to Billy Jo?
Sugar shot uphill on the shoulder and I did too. Out emerged a truck with two men shadowing us along the road to help keep Sugar off road.
As the hot wind stung my face and I ducked through the trees, it dawned on me. Sugar was headed for home. And I had left Billy Jo far behind. We had now traveled at least 3 miles at a full gallop. I was exhausted, my horse was exhausted. It was hot. I was drenched in sweat and Acey was so wet- it looked like we had taken a dive into a pond!
There was no use heading back. I needed now to get help for Billy Jo. The two men followed the us and the pace became a little less furious as Sugar continued to lead the way to her home. I jumped off Acey into the arms of Billy Jo's mom and in broken, tearful sobs let the family know what had happened. Billy Jo's brother sped off in his truck and I satisfied myself with a short, lusty cry.
Suddenly, my focus turned to Acey, my faithful little mare that was practically wheezing and dripping with perspiration. Her feet were tender and she staggered around as we walked her to cool her off. My mother had always told me that such a drastic impact on the horse and such strenuous, sudden activity could trigger laminitis and even break a horse's wind. We walked for a long time. Acey was stiff but her wind began to regulate and the rasping sound began to subside. I gave her several days rest and remarkably, she was no worse for wear. Whew - that had me worried!
Bubba soon brought Billy Jo home. They were uncertain whether she broke her ankle or twisted it and were headed to the doctor for x-rays She had limped to Duke and Fancy's house and simply waiting for how it would all turn out. I would have thought she could have made a phone call! Incidentally, she had torn a ligament in her leg and had to wear a brace for a while.
My centerline sprint ended my rides with Billy Jo. But I did learn first hand how the flight of a horse truly is like what the Bible said in the book of Job: "He devours the distance with fierceness and rage!" The Bible, as always, had it right and very relevant.
I also learned later on in life that you make sure your people are the first priority. Check their safety. Yet, despite all blunders, it was evident the Lord had His hand on the whole situation. And of course, one teen girl and two horses provided a completely free performance worthy of the greatest adventure ever seen on the Silver "B-Rated" Western Screen.
The Mini Adventures of Bek Hur?
Such a title could project epic imagery in Cinemascope with robust sinew and muscular brawn grasping the reins of four majestic white Arabs galloping perilously while harnessed to a chariot.
Reality diminishes glitter and dilutes cinematic splendor. The lights fade. The wallpaper on the props peel.
After all, folks...this is only a true story!
Setting: a hot East Texas day. Sun parched pastures edged with Black Locust, scrubby Cedars and the rugged Bois D’arc (pronounced in these parts as “Bowed Ark”) bordering the banks of a 60 acre pond with shimmering brown, murky water. Maybe one turtle floating across the watery muck on a drifting Bois D’ arc branch. One skeleton of a formerly in the flesh bovine.
Cast: a melting, frizzy haired, wild eyed woman at times sitting in a cart and one diminutive Miniature horse pulling or at times lunging in the cart.
Screenplay: Opening scene. Peaceful. Building energy. Next scene, Trainer frantically standing in a cart, pulling the reins while the muscle and sinew of tiny harnessed horse races full throttle to potential disaster…from perilous heights…perhaps to a watery grave…
Script: Throbbing Speechlessness.
Mood: Unabridged Panic.
Ending: The storying will unfurl itself...you just have to read to the end...of the series, that is!
Introducing the “Her” of Hur
The opening scene of any true epic always provides some insight to the past. No great leading lady of any drama, no matter how trite, just "happens" on the screen without some preamble to her virtues of worthiness to such a showcase of distinction and preference in the storyline. “I am the noblest lady in France, second only to the Queen…” is a direct quote from Singing in the Rain.
Even Shirley Temple, we were soon to learn after her first appearance on screen, had her misfortunes in the storyline to either be an orphan, or a penniless child, or to be overlooked for her obvious and blatant talent or just to be the unliked child that made everyone love her eventually by the end of the film (who could resist?).
Then there was Gene Autry’s leading lady in an exciting Saturday afternoon musical western. She was typically "Joan" or "Jane" or "Helen" and the heiress to a worthless uranium mine (so she was led to believe by someone in a black hat). All the odds were against her but she soon met Gene.
It was through Gene’s winning, sincere smile...
-his dedication to her from the very beginning (though at first she didn't like him typically)…
-his plaintive, signature nasal rendition of a song of the west accompanied by his trusty guitar that was as readily available as his six gun sung to a stunned audience always present and available…
-a fist fight or two with his wonder shirts that were never torn in battle though the adversary scratched and bit it…
-a wild chase on horseback…
-and lastly, a few 12 to 20 rounds with his 6-shot Revolver he didn’t have time to reload while balancing for dear life on a wildly galloping Champion...
...we soon came to know that lady was actually a wealthy woman that had refused any number of marriage proposals from men in black or white hats, had actually an active uranium mine that also struck a vein of gold and was madly in love with Gene Autry who didn’t seem to mind or be shocked at the realization.
Bek-Hur was such a character that could never measure up to the aforementioned heroines. I’m afraid the heroine of this story is rather boring in comparison to most leading ladies when taking the stage (no pun intended). She had no great slight or misfortune. Instead, she (that being me) grew in a wonderful home, and was well loved, well fed, well clothed, well-educated and was not slighted by the malignity of a near relative nor was she known to ever be capable of retaining an audience when attempting to sing as Gene Autry.
Simplicity at its best encapsulates the whole of Bek-Hur. No singing cowboys on the horizon nor uranium mines. Just the west at its best with all the real trimmings -- entailing a hoof pick, rasp and a pair of knippers. Horses of any breed were her passion. Yet, a special preference for a horse of a short stature and a drive to train them to drive was soon the center of her whole youthful existence. No, in comparison to most star studded “B” rated westerns—The Mini Adventures of Bek-Hur might have made the C-label –- not a tiered or even peer-reviewed grade in itself, but a “Condemned” rating.
The Mini Adventure Begins
My fascination with Miniature Horses began when I met Stormy, a Black Tobiano stallion about 32” tall. He was suited up in a patent leather harness and pulled a tiny sulky just big enough to seat an adult. With choppy precision, Stormy trotted around a “miniature” sized race track and won the roses. Once I sat in the sulky—I was hooked forever to harness, horse and cart.
I already had made plans to “grow up” to be a horse trainer but training cart horses was a fresh dream! At the age of 12 my first opportunity to train a Mini to a cart presented itself in the form of “Brookside”. He was only four years old, 31” tall and a dark chocolate brown with a tiny star on his forehead. Despite being a half-brother to the mannerly Stormy, Brookside was a frustrated stallion arriving to our home with the ego of a vertically challenged Goliath. Within the 24 hour period of his arrival to our home and the vet performing “brain surgery” (a.k.a castration), this little studly package had bit me and kicked at another family member! Poor prospect for a cart! I was ignorant enough not to worry. Brookside soon became a very contented, happy, lovable gelding and the model of all childrens’ horses. Never again did he use his teeth or hooves for evil. They were instead the empowerment enabling him to indulge in his favorite hobby—traveling to sample each available blade of grass that came within his realm.
We certainly had the horse before the cart and harness. I learned some principles of training from a Miniature Horse breeder, a video, books, my Dad and hands-on. While waiting to find the right cart and harness, I could no longer restrain the desire to get Brookside started. Making a “make shift” harness out of hay twine, feed sacks and duck tape—Brookside tolerated my youthful endeavors toward teaching him to ground drive. Soon, my Dad and I drove 2 hours crossing statelines to purchase a very affordable cart and harness... and the fun began!
Looking back, Brookside was a treasure that the Lord gifted our family with. He accepted the training of an adolescent trainer that took her job seriously and despite all that, he “somehow” survived and still became an ideal family horse. He started seven of my younger siblings in the principles of horsemanship. He was the little horse that taught me more about training. Later as an adult, I used him in my horsemanship lessons.
Stay tuned for the next episode of "The Mini Adventures of Bek-Hur"
The best adventures have yet to be told! :)
Rebekah L. Holt a.k.a "Bek- Hur" - In conjuction with the "God Used a Horse Series"
Tales from my Full Time Days Training Miniature and Shetland Ponies to Carts!