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We went horse-riding today in the snow.

When riding a horse, it soon becomes clear that the horse is another being from yourself entirely. Riding a horse is not like driving a car. You hold the reins, and if the horse is trained well, you generally get your way with a gentle tug or two. Unlike a car the horse has a mind of its own. She may be tired, or cold, or bored, or feeling lazy, or wishing she could have some grain, or desiring to get that itchy saddle off and have a good roll. She may become irked with that anonymous, cooing monkey on her back and deliberately take it under every low-hanging, snow-covered branch or drag it past the trees on the side of the trail. She may simply start bucking, perhaps simply to frighten it, or in a serious attempt to get it off. She may deliberately disobey instructions, following too close to the next horse, or refusing to stop when everyone else has. She may break out into a canter when she is supposed to trot, or trot when she is supposed to walk. When riding, it soon becomes clear that the horse may indeed do anything she wishes.

A good rider knows that he must not back down when the horse misbehaves. He must not show fear. He must be gentle, he must be patient, but he must be firm. This is the battle of wills between horse and rider: for any greater purpose to be acheived, the rider must be obeyed and the horse must submit.

Horses have done well from this bargain. Over the millenia, their kind has thrived, spreading their horse-sons and horse-daughters across the world, becoming for an age pillars of human civilization. For this, they have received our love and affection: daily groomings, clean stables, mountains of hay, and grain and sugar cubes and other horsey delicacies. Our histories and our language are bound up in these workhorses and the horsepower they provide, no matter how many times we had to rein them in or spur them on.

Yet they still resist. After our eventful ride, I was quite ready to get back down on solid ground and go to dinner. As I was walking past the training ring, I saw Brianna, one of the camp kids, riding a young brown horse recently broken. Brianna has grown up with these horses all her life, and she is one of the most experienced trainers the camp has. The horses gait broke from trot to canter to trot, in and out, occasionally bucking, as she rode it around the edge of the fence. Nothing could faze Brianna. With a deft hand at the reins, a sure seating on the saddle and a gentle voice in the horse’s ears, she rode through everything, certain that the horse would conform itself eventually. If not today, then tomorrow, or next month. She would persist, no matter how many branches it busted across her on the trail.

I wonder if this is not something like when we Christians say that Christ lives in our hearts. We have allowed him to saddle us and ride, but then we persist in our strong-willed ways. We don’t want to go that way; there’s an interesting smell over here. Or we get bored, or tired, and we sulk. Or we get mad at our fellow horses and try to kick them. Or we get mad at our rider, and drag him past every tree branch and thornbush, all the way to the hill at Calvary.

Yet always at the end of every ride (and this is the part that we like), there is the warm stable with hay and grain and a brush, and his hand on our muzzle and his voice in our ear, telling us that we are a good horse, and we’ll do better next time, and someday we will be a great horse and obedient, and able to do great things someday with our rider.

Sometimes I wonder if this is not how it is.

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One Response to “Horses.”

  1. 1
    Anthony Pierce:

    Thanks for sharin this excellent writing. Made my day, Anthony

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