Lauren Davis Baker
God gives us horses and compels
some of us to love them. Yet why does the horse, an animal with such a big
heart, live such a short life?
Perhaps it's because if our
horses lived any longer, we wouldn't be able to bear losing them. Or, perhaps
it's because God wants to jump.
Perhaps God looks down on
the fine horses we raise and decides when it's His turn to ride. He gives
us a few good years to care for and learn from them, but when the time is
right, it's up to us to see them off gracefully. Okay, perhaps not gracefully.
Blowing into a Kleenex is rarely graceful. But we can be grateful.
To have a horse in your life
is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a girl courage,
if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest
of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling
off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show
is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.
Horses teach us responsibility.
Unlike a bicycle - or a computer - a horse needs regular care and most of
it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing
to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets
is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily,
we know we've made the right choice.
Learning to care for a horse
is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more
than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others
will test you - you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin.
You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some
are so accident-prone you'll swear they're entionally finding new ways
to injure themselves.
If you weren't raised with
horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect
this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses,
and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you
by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it. I found
one of ours on the front porch one morning, eating the cornstalks I'd carefully
arranged as Halloween decorations.
Horses can be timid or brave,
lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses
and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses
as there are people - which makes the whole partnership thing all the more
If you've never ridden a
horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend.
You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday - but to truly ride well takes
a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning
a key in the ignition and putting the car in "drive."
In addition to listening
to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well.
On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your
mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's
naughty or perhaps he's fed up with how slowly you're learning his language.
Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you
(which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry
you over fences...if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership - and
partnership is what it's all about.
If you face your fears,
swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in
courage, commitment, and compassion, in addition to basic survival skills.
You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little
you know, and how much you have to learn. And, while some people think the
horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally.
Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his
back is the closest you'll get to heaven.
You can choose to intimidate
your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly,
but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The
best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience
a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual
understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with
absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.
If we make it to adulthood
with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our
over saturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those
of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to
ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.
If it is in your blood to
love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets;
we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears.
A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's
true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and
the luxury of regular meals...Some of us need these reminders.
When you step back, it's
not just about horses - its about love, life, and learning. On any given
day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery
from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case
of colic, or a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people,
we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life,
love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners
pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.
We mark our loss with words
of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of
joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave
hearts, courage, and willingness to give.
To those outside our circle,
it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such
poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy
of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us
into and out of fields of battle.
Listen to stories of that
once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of
horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in
Those who know them understand
how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of
sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the
burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true
In the end, we're not certain
if God entrusts us to our horses or our horses to us. Does it matter? We're
grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place. And so we
After You've enjoyed a bit
of jumping, please give our fine horses the best of care. And, if it's not
too much, might we have at least one more good gallop when we meet again?
Reprinted with permission by Flying Changes.