The Hoof Print
Horse News. Christian Living. Equine Education
The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type
There are so many ways that we experience rejection in life. The environments of family, employment, church, dating/courting and social circles all provide the backdrop of some the most painful experiences caused by human rejection. Christians might be resigned to expecting the world’s rejection. But what about when fellow Christians are the ones to reject us? Christ did not promise His followers exemption from sorrows in earthly life. What He did promise us is all our needs to be met, including: help, comfort, wisdom, guidance, strength, grace, healing and HOPE!
So when we find ourselves rejected of men, what is our response to be? Here’s a few quick points for what to do when you are rejected:
- Give it to the Lord. It is upsetting to be rejected. It hurts! It’s unjust! How could they? Why did this happen to me? We ask these questions. We seek comfort or justice. The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord. Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved (Ps. 55:2).Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Despite the emotions of the moment, slow down and first pray. Tell the Lord about the details and ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5). Be careful to first abandon your thoughts, worries, hurts and struggles to the Lord. Let Him give you His thoughts! He is the Wonderful Counselor (Is. 9:6). For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (He. 4:15).
- Go to the Bible. Let your situation be a catalyst to seeking Truth. Fill your mind with God’s Word. The Bible tells us that if we seek God we find Him (Jer. 29:12-13). We cannot find our way out of the valley without God’s Lamp to guide us (Ps. 119: 105). Go over what God has promised and make a list.
For starters, remember that God has promised:
From: "Twelve Things to Do When You Are Rejected - Rebekah L. Holt
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.
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).
All photo credits: Wikimedia Commons
There is absolute silence but for the beat of the wild horse’s hooves and the huff of her breath as she moves at a jerky canter around the round pen. The man at the centre of the pen makes no sound, but to the horse every smooth movement he makes is speaking. The horse’s jaws are clamped shut, upper lip poking out as she runs, but her white-rimmed eyes and high-flung head scream silently.
The trainer keeps his eyes locked on hers, his shoulders squared. In her own body language, he says, Move away. She tries to flee, but all she can do is run around and around the pen. Sometimes he steps in front of her, making her wheel around, the staccato stamp of her rapid hooves breaking her fast rhythm for a moment before she resumes her laps of the pen in the opposite direction.
But as the seconds tick past, the mare starts to relax. She starts to realise that the trainer hasn’t hurt her, and begins to recognise the syllables of a language she understands in the way he holds his body. Gradually, her head lowers, strides lengthening as her back muscles relax. Previously buried in her tossing mane, her ears start to rise, then tip towards the trainer. He watches the horse intently, keeping the pressure on so that she keeps moving. At last, after a few minutes of running, the mare’s lips move as her jaws grind in the rhythmic motion known as a lick and chew. It is the final sign of submission, and the trainer’s cue to act.
Instantly, but smoothly, he looks away from the mare’s eyes and turns aside so that one shoulder faces her. His shoulders relax, all the lines of his body softening as he changes his body language to say, Come to me. The mare stops, turns to face him with her ears pricked sharply towards him, then flicking back and forth as she wonders what to do. She takes a hesitant step forward, then another, then stumbles into a walk towards him until at last her trembling muzzle touches the wrinkled denim of his shirt. For the first time, this untamed creature stands beside a human being, and she does it willingly, unrestrained.
Such is the small miracle that is a successful join-up. It was the world-renowned Monty Roberts who first spread the idea of join-up, a theory that was at the time quite striking: that a human could communicate with a horse in his own language, and with it persuade even a wild horse to willingly come to the human. Ever since, thousands of trainers and horsepeople all over the world have learned join-up or a similar technique until for many it has become part of a routine. Often successful in establishing at least a little trust between man and equine, join-up has become just as famous as the man who first named it, ever since Roberts went into the wild and convinced an untouched mustang stallion to come to him out of his own free will.
Watching a successful join-up, one cannot help but see how so many of us are like wild horses. Terrified at every little sound, lost in our own society, we run from everything that startles us and trust no one. When God or His children try to reach out to us, we flee; if our flight is checked, we rebel against them and fight for all that we are worth. We batter ourselves against the walls of our round pen until we are raw and bleeding, but we would rather run ourselves to death than surrender and accept His presence.
But God is not like the horse-breakers of long ago who would fling a saddle onto an untouched horse’s back and try to ride him half to death with their spurs in his sides. He will never force us to come to Him, because He wants us to be His children, not His slaves. His boundless love means that He wants us to come to Him of our own free will. So He comes to us with patience, with love, and in a language that each individual understands best. Sometimes He has to allow us to go through trials and tribulations. We might even feel like He’s pushing us away, sending us out to run blindly around our round pen (Acts 14:22). But then we realise that even as we were running, He was standing there speaking to us in a language so familiar that we didn’t know it was Him talking. We see the love in His eyes and the gentleness in Him even as we run from Him. We learn how great He is, how much more powerful He is than we are, how unconquerable and mighty He is and how puny and helpless we are against Him. So we submit, but our fear is trimmed with joy; we submit to Him not as slaves under the whip of a driver, but as obedient children under the gentle hand of our great Father (Romans 8:15).
And once we submit to Him and acknowledge His greatness and confess to our sins, He welcomes us into Him with open arms (Matthew 11:28). So we come to him in full knowledge of what we do and with no restraint; we come to Him willingly, with love, with joy, with a little fear, but with a trembling trust. Like join-up, turning to Christ does not instantly make us complete; there is a long road ahead and much training to do before we can realise our full potential. But it establishes us forever in the Kingdom of God, and plants the seed of a trust in us, a trust that will grow so mighty that we will place our entire lives and everything we are and everything we love in His merciful, scarred and gentle Hands.
Oh, how He loves us. Glory to the King.
Head study of Warrior by Alfred Munnings (Public domain)
Moreuil Wood near Amiens, France, 30 March 1918. Warrior is pretending to be brave. He quivers under his rider in short bursts, his neat, black-edged ears pricked forward. General Jack Seely runs a stained hand down the gelding’s sweat-stiff bay coat, feeling the jump and shudder of the big neck muscles. In response, the horse slashes at the ground with a forefoot and snorts. The gesture is a challenge, and it gives the General the stab of courage he needs to make up his mind.
He turns to his troops with a rallying smile. “Charge!”
The gelding knows what the words mean; he rises briefly on his hindlegs, slender legs striking out. The men of the Canadian Corps cheer at their mascot, their symbol, their inspiration – the horse the Germans can’t kill. He has pretended to be brave for almost four brutal years now, filled with gunfire and bloodshed, and he makes the men hope that the Germans can’t kill them, either.
The General knows that that cannot be true; he has seen the Germans kill far too many young men already. But he knows that there is only one way to win this decisive battle, and it’s a risk he has to take. He claps his heels into Warrior and the thoroughbred plunges forward like a bullet from a Webley revolver. The men of the Canadian Corps bellow and 1400 horses sweep over the open ground, hooves splattering in the mud and chaos of the battlefield. Machine guns roar all around them, the thin wail of bullets filling the air. The General forces himself to ignore the screams of wounded men and horses that drop out of the ranks as they gallop on; he locks his gaze between Warrior’s ears towards their target – the enemy-infested woods. The gelding does not hesitate. He pushes out his nose, snaps out his legs and accelerates. All at once the woods are upon them and Warrior flings himself through the bushes and into the shadows, into one more battle, kicking and snorting and sweating and plunging, pretending to be brave…
Isle of Wight, 30 March 1922. The roaring sound of many voices falls deafeningly on the General’s ears, but this time there are no screams of pain, no shrieks of desperation. This crowd is cheering, wild with excitement, whooping encouragement to the field of horses tearing down the track towards the finish line. A mass of flashing coats and churning muscles, the horses throw themselves over the steeplechase fences as they thunder down the last stretch. And in the lead runs a powerful little bay gelding, who leaps the fences with an unmatched fearlessness. The other, younger horses sprint to catch up, their jockeys yelling encouragement; but the little bay remains utterly undaunted. He flounces over the finish line in an easy first, tossing his head until his black forelock is flung back from his little white star.
The delighted crowd nearly carries the General into the winner’s circle towards his horse, who is draped with flowers. The General wears a small smile; he walks quietly up to the gelding, reaches out a hand, lays his palm against the smooth brown cheek. Warrior turns his head to look at his owner, and pride swells in the General’s throat and prickles at the back of his eyes. It has been four years to the day since the desperate charge at Moreuil Wood that saved Amiens and was essential for the Allied victory. Almost half the horses and many of the men died in that charge, but here was Warrior; now fourteen years old and bursting with life and health, as evidenced by winning this point-to-point. The Germans couldn’t kill him after all.
Indeed, they could not. Having survived countless battles, being trapped several times under the burning beams of bombed-out stables, and dug out of the nightmarish mud at Passchendaele, Warrior returned safely to the island of his birth once the war was over. He and his owner and breeder, John Edward Bernard Seely 1st Baron Mottistone – known as “General Jack” or “Galloper Jack” in the war – remained inseparable until Warrior was eventually put down in 1941 at the grand age of 33. He had become a celebrity in Britain after the publication of the General’s account of his experiences, entitled My Horse Warrior and later Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse. He has become even more of a celebrity 100 years after the beginning of his service in the war, having been posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal. This medal is known as the “Victoria Cross for animals”, and has been rewarded to only three other horses: the valiant police horses Olga, Regal and Upstart.
Warrior could not understand what the war meant or what he meant to the men around him; all he knew was to do what his rider asked, and he was one of the great horses that would do it with all of his considerable heart. But to the men of the Canadian Corps he was more than a horse. He was a symbol of the hope that they would survive the brutal, bloody, muddy tragedy that was World War I.
God used Warrior to inspire the men that served in the Corps. He is an example of how God can shine a light into even the darkest and most desperate times of our broken, fallen world, and how He can use anything for His purposes. If God can use a small bay horse to inspire an army and later a nation, how mightily He can use each one of us!
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.