The Hoof Print
Horse News. Christian Living. Equine Education
The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type
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!
God Used a Horse…
To Express His Love For Me
Plans shattered. Tears of failure. Guilt. Grief.
All these were mine as I looked at the firstborn of my prized buckskin American Shetland stallion. All year I had waited for this specific foal. When it came to the crucial moment of delivery, I had proven totally useless to assist the laboring mare and in some ways, had ignorantly overlooked the “signs of trouble”.
How could I have done such a thing? I had been there with her! I had been preparing myself through reading, talking to other breeders and the veterinarian. I had read horror stories about foaling situations with ponies. I was diligent to try to study up on the subject of prevention of a bad foaling situation. The responsibility of helping dystocia cases was a worry that endured through the whole foaling season and kept me checking the mares around the clock for weeks prior to their delivery. But despite all my efforts, when it came down to it, I still “missed the boat.” The foal died.
With trepidation, I sought my veterinarian for help. Tell me what to do next time. What can I do? I have so many more mares set to foal out. He told me to not be afraid of assisting the mare and sent me home with palpation gloves and sterile lubrication. The vet also told me, well, in all honesty, due to the placenta removing like Velcro from the uterus with every contraction, there was a very tiny window of time to save a foal in a dystocia case. Horses have a very quick delivery (or rather should!) and with every contraction, the placenta and uterus comes apart progressively. Our 20 minute drive to the vet would have likely been too late anyway…by the time the mare could be hauled, etc., etc. It would have still been up to us, the owners. Plus, this filly was 3 weeks overdue. The foal was large for a first time mare. The mare would have had to have help even if the foal had been in the right position. And the fact the foal was coming “crown first”, the vet suggested it could have been an indication she was not wholly healthy. Later, we traced the culprit to be fescue toxicity and indeed, the symptoms of an overdue pregnancy and dystocia all coincided.
That night, I once again pulled out the foaling book and fortified my “foaling kit” box. Sleeping restfully was impossible. I felt like a bad steward of what God had given me charge over a beautiful small herd of American Shetland ponies. How was it possible I had failed the first time out and neglected even to heed my conscience that kept pricking me that something was “wrong” before it was too late? I mourned my ignorance and lack of experience. It was not just a mistake—it entailed a life and loss. This filly was a prize—a well-marked bay tovero with a dishy head the very first foal by my beloved Bucky and Bonnie. What a loss of time, life, money, preparation, energy, effort. Bonnie was thankfully going to heal up alright with some 3-4 times a day care and high powered medication to fight infection and inflammation. However, due to the trauma, the veterinarian said she would likely never be able to carry a foal again.
From then on, fear and dread gripped me as I watched the bulging stomachs of the remaining expectant broodmares. I found myself praying repeatedly to God, please help me! But despite a peace knowing God did hear me, there was a fear of a repeat situation and a true concern I would possibly fail again.
Like a hen, those mares were hovered over! Ruby and Dee were next.
Ruby and Dee were veteran “no help needed” older mothers that liked to foal late at night or in the wee hours of morning. They were inseparable like two little old-fashioned ladies that were always seen together. Their world was pretty settled without a care. Despite my anxious hovering, they just munched casually on their grass heedless to any greater concern than an occasional swish at a fly.
My vigorous routine of “around the clock” checkups started with the first signs of their “bagging up”. They were both expecting foals by our homozygous black tobiano stallion, Ryan. However, I had read how even good mares could still have “problems. These were our family favorite mares. To have them in a difficult delivery or possibly lose their foals (who were always some of the best of the crop), would indeed be a devastation from every angle.
The day arrived and Dee made her approach toward “any moment” foaling out. That night, I kept her up close to the house. With a full moon shining through the blinds of the window by my bed, 1 am, 2 am, 3 am, 4 am rolled by only to reveal her marching on foot along the fence line and whining to her pasture buddy who oddly didn’t stay close to her through the night. I knew enough about Dee’s patterns of foaling, she could “go” any moment…why did she wait? Yet, dawn broke, still no foal and Dee’s evening activity had merely left a worn path bordering the cross fencing. I turned her lose and down the pasture she trotted gleefully to join Ruby.
The morning wore on with occasional glances down toward the end of the 40 acre pasture where Ruby and Dee grazed. The pasture, though narrow and long, was treeless providing a clear view with binoculars at the far end. As these mares always foaled at night, I expected another worrisome night of broken sleep. Yet, around noon, walking to the front window overlooking the pasture, I parted the sheers and peered out through binoculars—my heart stood still.
Dee was in labor!
With all the panic surging with the urgency of needing to be on hand to “save the foal”, I dashed on a pair of rubber boots, ran to the barn to grab my kit and jumped in “Brownie” our 1989 brown Chevrolet standard shift pickup. With a racing heart, I shifted Brownie into 2nd and as I approached the laboring mare, I attempted to “quietly” barrel down the dusty driveway! I arrived in time to see a blinking, breathing, beautiful robust silver dapple tobiano colt laying in a carpet of clover and primroses. Dutiful Dee “spoke” to her colt in soft, fluttering of her nostrils with gentle, deep sounds I’ve only witnessed by mares to their newborns. It is the tenderest and most loving sound any animal could make.
Oh, he has a paint! And look at those white stockings! And a little star on his forehead! Awww! Oh thank you Lord, thank you Lord! Aw, Dee, aw, he’s so cute!
As my heart poured forth in ecstasy (and yes, I did “talk” to the horses many times!), I glanced over to Dee’s buddy, Ruby who never was too far away.
To my astonishment, the little red mare, who celebrated over the new arrival with little nostril flutters of her own, was acting strange! With a suddenly strutted udder, she walked around the baby and Dee and dropped down.
AH! Another one in labor in the middle of the day! Ruby in a matter of a few more minutes was making sweet sounds to her own stunningly handsome black and white tobiano colt. And I was so “unneeded” with no time to do anything but grab a camera and leap for all the joy that can be leaped for by a horse lover with two brand-new baby paint ponies only about 24” tall!
The reality of having witnessed a unique, almost miraculous circumstance was not lost on me. Two mares had foaled within a few minutes of each otherwithin a few feet of each other! The day was beautiful, sunny, blue skies and the backdrop of primroses, deep and light greens of spring was both glorious and memorable.
As I looked on at the lovely scene before me, I was overcome with the reality the Lord had “lowered the waters” for me. These mares were due several weeks apart. I had never heard of two mares delivering in the middle of the day, full sunshine and out in the open and rather socially! Neither had my veterinarian who I wasted little time in telling of this wonderful delivery! No, the Lord had not let me fail. Instead, He got it all worked out for me and had it all taken care of before I could do a thing. He also gave me a gift and did something that meant something to me. I loved being the first on the scene to witness the new little one. He reinforced that He knows me in a special way. No—I refuse to believe this circumstance was by chance. It was by His appointment I didn’t miss that quick foaling by the typical noon tradition of eating a sandwich. In a course an hour, all my dread, worries of inadequacy were overshadowed by the joy of new life and a real understanding the God who created me and endowed me with this love of horses really did something for me—Me, Rebekah—very personally. It was done in a way not asked for, but a real, delightful gift that gave both peace and tremendous delight. Photos were snapped and snapped to capture these fleeting, special moments of spindly new legs learning to bear weight (Brownie and I had to race back to the house to get me little 2 MP digital camera and a few excited siblings!).
“Dusty” and “Galloway” certainly grew to be rambunctious, fluffy colts. They were a delight to watch grow. Around Christmas, together they headed up toward Oklahoma to charm a big Indian family with extended families of youngsters. The following years, Ruby and Dee returned to their uneventful, nocturnal traditions of foaling leaving me to still hover through the night while they just went through motions like pioneers.
To some, it may not seem like much. But for me, Ruby, Dee, Dusty and Galloway were just a few pretty little horses that God used to express His love for me in a special way and provide a tangible, lovely reminder. God certainly used a horse. ><>
God Used a Horse
Rebekah L. Holt
At this present stage of life, my every day is not orbiting the horse circuit. Like many adults, my course is filled with responsibilities and much unlooked for change, change, change that are all in accord with the Sovereignty of God. There have been times I have even so much as declared myself as a "has been" when thinking of my present equestrian endeavors.
Yet, while typing at this keyboard, I can still see the mellowing scars of yesteryears moving rhythmatically with motioning knuckles. Tributes to adventures of working horses. These hands themselves could tell various stories to match the various scars of both service and stupidity!
It has been a time of recounting the years horses have been a part of my life. Though horses are by no means “a thing of the past”, reminiscing of a very equidae immersed period in my life has brought to mind the many lessons I have learn. Most of those lessons, the Lord has used the horse as a catalyst to draw me closer to Himself. Just as many medicines require a “spoon full of sugar” to go down pleasantly, I think the Lord used horses as an agent to sweeten some of the lessons He has been teaching me.
I have often expressed that if Creation leads to Christ, then horses can be an instrument of the Lord to teach us of Himself. It is true! God uses the things we love to draw us with a magnetic attraction to Himself! The Lord also prepared the very gifts He gives to captivate us and to reflect the character, nature and goodness of our Creator and Giver in a way we can "take home" or digest. As Scripture simplifies it, "Go to the ant." Creation does declare the glory of God and we have much to learn from it!
Thinking over how the Lord has used horses in my life, it has been a growing desire to write down some of the stories and recount the many blessings of a very unique opportunity the Lord allowed me. I hope you will enjoy this journey...
1# As a type of "introduction" to this series, I dusted the cobwebs off this this old little story written for children. For some of you, this is old, repeat material and you'll smell the mothballs! This was written when I was 21--the very year eQuest For Truth began!
Created To Love Horses: A Life Not By Chance
Rebekah L. Holt
In the beginning, when God created all things in just six days, He thought about you and me. He made the universe, the earth, and all living things—the animals and the first man, Adam, and woman, Eve—so one day we could enjoy life.
The Creator has made each of us for a special purpose. Before you or I were born, He already knew what He had planned for our lives.
Let’s look through my scrapbook. It records The Creator’s unfolding blue print—a Master Plan—for my life.
When I was just a small baby in my mother’s womb, my parents didn’t know what I would grow up to be. My grandparents wondered whether I’d be another boy. My older brothers hoped I’d like trucks, frogs, and Lego blocks.
Only The Creator knew what I was made for. He created me to love horses.
My love for horses started early. I was only a toddler with a sunbonnet and lacey dress when I stole away to sit on my family’s backyard pony. My mother was frantic, but “Sugar Plum” lay fast asleep, stretched in the warm Spring sunshine. I waved a dimpled hand to the slumbering pony while Mom carried me to safety.
As I grew, my parents taught me that The Creator wanted me to know Him. They read the Bible to me. I learned about God’s perfect creation at the very beginning of time. Then we read about Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Their sin caused bad things in the world to begin happening. People, animals, and all creation started to grow old and die. Aches and pains were caused by sin too.
As my parents and I talked about pain and suffering, I recalled crying when old Doc, my brother’s horse, kicked me. That was very painful! My leg throbbed so badly; I thought it would fall off.
Then Mom and Dad told me about Jesus Christ. “God does not want us to stay sinful. He does not like us to suffer or experience pain. That’s why He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered for all man’s sin on the cross and rose from the dead that every sin—yours and mine—could be forgiven. When we ask forgiveness for our sins and ask Jesus to be our Savior, God promises in the Bible that we will one day live with Him in Heaven, far away from death, pain and suffering.”
I wanted to know Jesus Christ and live with Him in Heaven. My parents prayed with me as I asked Jesus to be my Savior and forgive my sins. I was just six years old when I became a Christian.
When I turned ten years old, I longed to have my own horse. Daydreaming, I would doodle pictures of "my horse” and write stories too. I liked to read about Jesus riding on a donkey and look at my Bible’s pictures of Jesus’ horse in the Book of Revelation—proud, white, rearing. I thought I’d like to ride a horse like that!
As the desire to own a horse grew stronger, my parents encouraged me to pray. “Bekah, God knows what He has planned for your life. If He wills for you to own a horse, He will open the doors for you. Let’s ask Him to guide and keep us within His Master Plan for your life.”
As we waited and prayed together, my parents provided opportunities for me to earn money for “Bekah's Horse Fund.”
The horse fund grew as I learned to work diligently and be responsible. My tenth year felt like it would never end. Sometimes it seemed that I’d never get a horse of my own. But The Creator had a plan for my life. Right before my eleventh birthday, He blessed the desire of my heart.
I’ll never forget seeing my filly for the first time. Her eyes were big and brown just like chocolate cookies. On her forehead was a crooked white star. Her rich, sorrel coat was splashed with mud from the wet pen she was kept in. I had never seen such a beautiful horse—Acey was mine.
When I turned twelve, I learned that The Creator equips us for every task that He has for us to do. I sure didn’t like my healthy size or big feet. But my Creator knew I needed a sturdy frame to train Acey, who was now two years old.
Setting to the task of teaching Acey to ride, I read books about training horses and my dad, who had good horse sense, gave me advice. He held Acey when I straddled her for the first time.
Acey was the perfect first "student" for a young trainer. She never bucked me off, but I still lost my balance. Once I went right over Acey’s head after I said “Whoa", and she really stopped! She just waited for me to get back in the saddle. I wondered, was I the trainer or maybe Acey was training me?
As I grew older, the Lord continued to guide my life.
He gave me enough horses to fill barns. There was Brisk, the chestnut colt I bought when fourteen. When I sat on Brisk the first time, it felt like riding a toothpick! He was so tall and slender. Scout, a golden palomino with a flowing white mane, was the first horse to buck me off when I was seventeen. It didn’t hurt as much as I expected! Then there was Bucky. He was a toy-like buckskin Shetland. Together we won a cart driving championship our very first show. Hosanna and Benevolence, adorable Shetland fillies, were born on my 20th birthday just the color I wanted them to be. That was a happy birthday!
Now I’m all grown up and I still love horses. Many horses have trotted by with my childhood, but the horse I prayed for as a little girl is still my favorite!
Acey and I are now horse riding instructors. An army of young equestrians arrives weekly to ride Acey and call me, “Miss Rebekah.” I guide their horsemanship skills as Acey teaches them to trust and ride with confidence.
These children were created, just like me, to love horses. Many want their own horses just like I did at their age. Yet not all understand that The Creator made them and that He has a unique plan for each of their lives.
Across the backs of horses, I sometimes share the news of Jesus, the Savior, to freckled or chubby faces that don’t know about Him. Their eyes grow large with awe of our Lord who made the horse so magnificent. We enjoy talking about The Creator’s amazing design of the horse’s body. Together we discover that according to Genesis 1:28, we were made to enjoy and care for our horses.
Looking through my scrapbook, I see that God has used my tender, childhood years to prepare me for what I was made to do. My life's blue print is still unfolding, but so far I’ve lived an abundant and fruitful life.
The Bible says that The Creator knows what plans He has for each of us. He even knew us before we were born. Our God has made us all with a unique purpose and a one-of-a-kind future―a life not by chance.
I know without a doubt, God created me to love horses…when a foal nuzzles my face with a velvety nose…Acey and I fly like the wind across the prairie…and I see the rich smiles of children astride a horse’s back. In the beginning, it was all part of His Master Plan.
I wonder what our Creator has made you for. Were you created to love horses?
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.
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.