You can’t hide forever from the thunder
Look into the storm and feel the rain…
~ Josh Groban, “Brave”
Ever since I tried to break in a large black stallion when I was twelve years old and relatively clueless, with the expected consequences, I’ve had nervousness issues. I suppose that no horseman can expect to grow, learn, or improve without going through various stages of horse-related fear, but that doesn’t make it any fun.
It’s quite easy to trace back my fears to that stallion; not that he was, in himself, a bad guy – in fact he was one of the sweetest stallions I’ve known and if I had him today, I’m quite confident I could train him without major trouble. But the green horse-green rider mix seldom works out (it did for me once, but it’s not a frequent occurrence) and add to that his massive size, my tiny size, and all his boy hormones and it didn’t end very well. In the end I did a little work on him and overcame the worst of his issues before selling him off in the middle of last year.
Today, similar horses or situations still come back to haunt me. Stallions are usually a bit of a trigger, but dear, patient, gentle, one-in-a-million Reed has more or less cured me of this one. Big horses were also an issue but then Thunder grew up to be the same height as his father (the black stallion), and with riding Sookie and the other warmbloods I just got used to it. Buckers were a problem, but there are so many horses that buck that eventually I was forced to learn to live with it or quit training young horses, and that’s something that I’m loathe to do.
Now the biggest problem that remains is a combination of the three: a big, bucking stallion is sure to scare me. And for a few weeks, one of the stud stallions fit this bill. Sixteen hands of pure magnificence, he makes the little horsecrazy girl inside me do cartwheels of ecstasy; only about four and a half years old, his hormones and excess energy occasionally get the better of his otherwise quite trainable mind. Add to this me being frightened of him bucking and frustrating him by holding him in whilst kicking him on, and we have an airborne horse and a desperate rider.
I was, in fact, right on the brink of handing him over to the Mutterer and admitting defeat. Even the Mutterer was starting to look a little scared on my behalf when the stallion was in a feisty mood, and it takes quite a lot to frighten the Mutterer. Then, one day as I was scrolling through Facebook (I know, I know, great source of wisdom) a quote jumped out at me:
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee.” Isaiah 41:10a
I realised, again, that giving in to fear is not an option – not for me. I can’t choose fear over love or dreams or God; I guess that every time I choose fear instead of courage, I play servant to Satan instead of subject to my King. For God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind; and we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
So I girded up my loins, saddled up the horse (even though part of me really didn’t want to) and he was absolutely foot perfect. Better than he’s ever been. And because I was looking at him with love and not fear, I saw him at his best; realised anew how beautiful the mighty arching curve of his neck in front of me is, how stunning his huge smooth strides are, and how special his spirit, pride, and strange sensitivity are. And for this reason I would argue that the opposite of fear is not faith, but love: to love is to let go of fear. I was too busy loving him to be afraid of him. Above all, I was too busy loving his Creator to do anything but trust in Him.
One small battle might be won but the war is far from over. At every ride I stand at the same fork in the road, faced with the same choice: Love or fear? And fear is such a broad and attractive and comfortable way to go. But the path to love is marked by the sign of a cross. And it’s that sign that I will follow from here to eternity.