The Evidence of Things Not Seen

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Hebrews 11 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

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It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.”[a] For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

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It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

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11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed[b] that God would keep his promise. 12 And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

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13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

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17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

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20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.

21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.

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23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.

24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

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29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.

30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

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32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

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But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

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And by faith, this most undeserving of all His children would find herself most abundantly blessed.

I love my little mustard seed. ❤ Glory to the King.

Busier

The first of November brought with it a much more satisfying schedule around here, with a few new lesson bookings and some new horsies in training.

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This includes Emmy, who is showing one of the quickest and most miraculous changes I have ever seen in my life. She was a skinny, dull, flat little thing when she arrived in the beginning of September, scoring a 2/10 – all ribs and hip bones. To her owner’s great delight (and mine), two months later she is a shiny, happy 5/10. I’ve never seen my feeding programme work quite so fast in my life. Her owner can take much of the credit, because she saw the wisdom in not trying to be penny-wise pound-foolish and had all the expensive things done promptly.

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We also have a new arrival, this lovely old broodmare, Jewel. She is a Nooitie from the oldest stud in the country – beating Arop by a full decade – and stunning to look at and handle. As you’d expect for a fine specimen of this breed.

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Faithy giving me side eye as I attack her amazing hair with new detangler I found. It is magical.

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My happy place ❤ Our next project is to build some stables, and after that, a jumping arena. The dressage works fine, but it does get a little old to be disassembling jumps before every dressage lesson, or schooling Elementary movements around the jumps. I still sometimes can’t believe we really have a full size, flat, sand dressage arena. It’s wonderful.

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Thunder has finally, finally started to put on some condition again. He can still do with a fair bit, but at least he doesn’t look so straggly anymore.

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Lady Erin, having done a bit of a growth spurt, is firmly in straggly status, but I can still see glimmers of something classy buried under the yearling uglies. Apparently so could a nice – and top – showing rider from the Eastern Cape, who bought her.

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I’m very relieved that she’s found a good home, but I will admit, I’ll be sad to see her go. I would have loved to have watched her grow up.

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I’ll watch these little nuggets grow up instead, ever aided by the faithful schoolies. Ash is establishing herself as a firm favourite among riders of all levels.

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Faith’s first time in bandages. I was amazed that she stood still for long enough for me to put all four of them on – she’s extraordinarily wiggly. But at least her front end has caught up at last.

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I tried Jamaica in the hackamore, on the chiro’s advice. It didn’t work at all to get him more connected and lighter in the hand. In fact he practically ignored it, but he’s so good off my seat now that we still had simple changes through walk just the same as in a bridle.

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I scrubbed the dragon. She looks decidedly better now, but she still has half a winter coat. I sometimes wonder, between being an 8/10 regardless of what she’s being fed and the fluffiness, if she has a bit of Cushing’s. If she does it only makes her fluffy and fat (a healthy level of fat) though, so I’m not losing sleep over it right now.

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Thunny got two apples for his birthday. He couldn’t have been happier.

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Lancey has been angelic for his little rider, if a bit spicy for her big sister after a long break to regain condition. She’s also starting to sit so much better. These two make my heart happy.

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So do these two; I think this tiny child probably has a better position than I do. Stirrups or no.

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Still my best goofball ❤ His birthday was also in October, and he is now ten. Supposedly all grown up. Ha.

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The farmer who works our fields made this big banky thing, presumably to prevent rainwater gushing down from the top of the hill into his fields and washing away the seeds. We are not complaining; it makes a wonderful cross-country obstacle.

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Arwen is sound again at last and back in work. We have our first show back this weekend and she’s going nicely, apart from being occasionally very dragonish and wild when the mood takes her (fresh = loony).

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She’s going such a perfect dappled grey now. ❤

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Emmy’s first day in training gave me my first proper look at her personality and I like her. She is forward-thinking and, like any thoroughbred, can get flustered when she thinks she’s made a mistake; but she’s sensible, robust, and has fairly nice movement – better than I expected. She tries very hard and someone has put in some lunging work with her before, so it won’t be long before we can move on to bigger things.

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Titan’s first day in backing was also pretty good. He’s had most of the basics done before we turned him out six months ago because he wasn’t quite as old as his previous owners said; he can lunge and has worn a roller. His baby Arab brain wanted to gallop madly for the first five minutes, but as we go on we’re sorting out that tendency and he’s remembering that he can, in fact, be quiet and obedient.

I do think we have our work cut out for us getting him quiet enough for his child owner. He is willing, he tries hard, but he’s going to be hot.

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Unlike both these horses, who were just born for kids. Rene and Trooper might be K and E’s, but they both have to earn their keep in the riding school, too.

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Champagne’s injury has still prevented me from putting a saddle on her, so we decided to tackle one of our biggest obstacles: the dreaded circle at C. She doesn’t like cows, and cows are next to C, so she doesn’t like C. We’ve been avoiding that conversation, but she’s finally in the place where we can talk about on the lunge, and we’ve got three relaxed gaits – even with stretching down – on her good days.

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Best of all, Faith’s third birthday came and went and we started playing with the idea of backing. It’s been a long time since I had a truly untouched horse, and while it’s taken me a moment to adjust to the slower pace, I’m loving it. I love just watching her move, she’s so beautiful. Her gaits are much like Thunder’s; boring to look at but balanced and rhythmic, and when she moves in a moment of self-carriage she floats. She is so, so, so wiggly, though. Really – she cannot stand still for more than one second. She’s also a little separation anxious, but happy to go to work, and obedient on the lunge. All baby horse stuff. I love having a baby again ❤

Glory to the King.

 

Review: Equestrian Elegance Earmuffs

At CHG Leg 6, while Thunder and I were warming up, a rather loud voice from the side of the arena right next to us piped up.

“I don’t understand this dreadful new fad with these earmuff things!” it complained.

Thunder was the only horse in the warmup wearing them, and our old pair was rather eye-catching; they had been white once until somebody washed them with the red pair, and were now a slightly startling shade of pale pink. The diamante around the edge was starting to come off, and a seam on the ear had split, causing Thunder’s trademark long and fuzzy ear hair to poke out of it. I was, at first, slightly miffed by this obnoxious railbird, but considering I’d just put in an order with Jessica Garnett from Equestrian Elegance, I knew that at the next show, their shock and horror would reach an entirely new level.

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the old earmuffs

The Ordering Process

I’d seen advertisements for these beautiful custom products all over Facebook, and when Thunder won his first bit of prize money, I decided to do a little bit of a splurge and looked up their Facebook page. Jessica answered my message within minutes and sent me pictures and pricing promptly.

Originally I was looking for a standard-shape white pair with a cross in bling, but the shape wasn’t available. It didn’t bother me too much – I don’t know too many people who strap blingy crosses on their horses’ faces, after all – because Jessica was able to do the cross in embroidery instead, and it worked out cheaper. She was more than helpful throughout the whole thing and went to a lot of effort to find me what I was looking for. I was invoiced promptly and the parcel sent off as soon as it was ready, and I was sent a tracking number immediately. She even sent me photos of the product before posting it, and to my great delight, added extra bling on the embroidered cost at no extra charge – a kind gesture, I thought, especially considering it wasn’t her fault that the bling cross I’d wanted wasn’t available. Jessica tracked the parcel herself and it arrived in excellent shape.

The only thing I ever waited for was for the actual earmuffs to be made. The waiting period was a few weeks, which didn’t bother me much because it is a custom product, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you want to order for a specific show or for Christmas or a birthday.

The Product

Obnoxious railbird, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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In short: I. Love. It.

The material is has a sturdy, durable feel to it, especially the crocheted parts. It doesn’t have a string, but we showed with it last weekend and it really doesn’t need one – the design is such that the bridle holds it in place perfectly. I much prefer the look without the string. Everything is neatly finished, and the little blingy bits on the cross have stuck on perfectly.

Thunder is a fairly standard Full size head with fairly small ears. This is a Full, and it fits well, a little loose around the ears. I will say that if you have a ginormous warmblood or draft, you’ll need considerably bigger.

It’s also exactly what was agreed on, and he was quite happy toting it around on his beautiful noggin, showing no discomfort or rubbing.

The only thing that gave me pause about this product was the price. As you’d expect for a higher-quality custom product, it was about four times the price of the el cheapo one I’d picked up at a local tack shop. That said, the previous one did half a dozen shows and then promptly fell apart, and I expect much, much better wear from this one.

The Verdict

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I rarely splurge on nice tack – the last time I did was on Arwen’s double bridle almost two years ago – but when I have, I haven’t regretted it. I don’t think I’ll regret this, either. It needs to last me the duration of Thunder’s career, and if I take care of it, I reckon it will. Would I order from Equestrian Elegance again? Well, I’ll probably be broke for the rest of my life, but if not – you bet I would. The service was faultless, and the product absolutely lives up to my expectations.

Ordering this glorified tea-cosy meant a lot more to me than just cutesy dressing-up for shows. Dressage is worship, it’s my dance of praise to my everlasting God. He is my life, the song of my soul, and the Rock of my salvation; and I want to scream His Name from the rooftops so that the entire dark world can see the glory of His light. This is one more way for me to fulfill the deepest purpose of my life and the deepest calling I can hear: to preach the Gospel.

Now as I come down centreline, the first thing every judge and spectator – few though those may be at little local shows, at little bottom levels – will see is the symbol of my God on my horse’s forehead. It’s custom embroidered. It’s navy to match my coat and ridiculously blingy. It’s positively fabulous. And it’s a symbol of a Love so courageous it went willingly to the most painful death imaginable; a Love so forgiving it died for unrepented sin; a Love so far-reaching, all-encompassing, all-embracing, unending and timeless that it stretches out through the centuries and sings out in me as loudly as the day when it sent the innocent Son of God to die on a real, bloodstained wooden cross.

It means the greatest truth I know: My God is real. My God is loving. And my God is right here.

Glory to the King.

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CHG Leg 7

The last leg of the CHG Series was two days before Thunder’s seventh birthday.

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I had to leave Arwen at home because she was still unfit and not quite sound after a bit of a dodgy trim, so it was Thunny and Rene for it. (Who came second in their Prelim 4 with K, a hard-earned place. I’m so proud of them).

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we’re the one with the giant cross on the horse’s face and the other one always wins, except that one time that we did

I decided to ask Thunder to be a bit grown up today and didn’t have K bring Rene over so that he could have a friend while he was warming up. And he responded by being the quietest and calmest he’s been in the warmup. He had a look around when we walked around the first time and then that was it. Straight to work.

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I also have inordinate amounts of media for once, so prepare to be bombarded. Here he looks like seventeen hands until you realise I’m a hobbit.

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My soul does dressage but let’s be real, my seat still thinks it’s eventing. Sigh. Maybe, just maybe the horse is tight in his neck because my hands are bracing? Ya think?

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He had some truly superb moments in the warmup, though. As usual for a show, he was a little stiff and tense though his back and neck. Not usual for a show, he was really, really behind my leg. I wasn’t really concentrating on it because usually at shows I’m all panicking about if any of my whoa and turn buttons still work, so before I knew it, he was BADLY behind my leg and I was nagging madly. Nagging, for the record, does not and never will work on this horse.

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His tail is so dressage-y. I love it. The judge made a comment about our amazing earmuffs (more on them later!) and then off we went. The trot work was OK, a little behind my leg but OK. The free walk kind of, well, wasn’t. He can free walk for an 8 (and has in the past) but as soon as he’s slightly tense, distracted, or (you guessed it) behind the leg it becomes a bit of a mess. This judge has a thing about free walk so we got  5.5 for it. Ouch.

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In this photo he looks really offended because when I asked for my A-F corner canter left he sort of speeded up his trot and fell on the forehand. I asked again just after F and he ignored me, and then I decided the movement was a disaster anyway so I took the whip behind my leg and gave him a big hiding. He does not need to learn that I won’t hit him for blatant disobedience in the show ring. To be fair, he was a little distracted, and I could have prepared him better, but when I ask for canter he’d better canter. Of course then he struck off on the wrong leg and wobbled all the way off the track, but we sorted it out and managed to put in a circle. It was too late, though, and landed us a well-deserved 4 for that movement.

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I felt it coming down around my ears a bit at that point, but I knew that it was one bad moment in what had so far otherwise been a solid test, so we scraped it together and earned a string of 7s for the rest of our trot and canter work, barring a 5 for the stretchy trot (he barely does it at home – definitely not at shows). That was still good enough for 66%, getting us third place. So it was nice to get a ribbon even if we’d had a little disaster in there.

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As we headed out of the Prelim 3 arena, the rider before us was only just going in for Prelim 4, so I walked him up and down the path doing walk-halt-walk until he was in front of my leg. I can get him really nicely in front of my leg now, but I have to be very, very diligent about keeping my leg OFF until I actually want something. Then the deal is that I give a tiny squeeze and he must respond. He got one tap with the whip and then realised I had stopped nagging, so then we were back on the same page and went in for Prelim 4 feeling quite chirpy.

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Evidently I was still not terribly focused, however. Nothing was truly horrible at first, but nothing was that brilliant throughout the test, either; 6.0s and 6.5s except for a 7 for our final halt and centreline (that was quite nice). The serpentines had the comment “show more bend”, which was disappointing because I know I can get a really nice serpentine from him, he likes the movement and is good at it. I actually really like this test for him but I think I just wasn’t really there for him at that point. I also forgot the test halfway through the canter work and got the -2 there with comment “broke” even though he didn’t break, I asked him to trot. Poor chap.

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He also was a tiny bit hesitant going to canter left again, so he got a tap and we managed to get it accurately this time but still lost some marks for the loss of rhythm and balance. Also, almost every movement had the comment “tight neck” and I can really see it in this photo. He’s on the bit, he’s just not connected really, short in the neck, tight in the throat and breaking in the third. He often gets this comment at shows and I’d like to get photos at home again and see if it’s at shows or always. I do feel like he wants to go above the bit at shows and it looks like I respond by jamming my hand down and pulling, which definitely doesn’t help.

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I feel like getting his neck long is the key to fixing the other comments the judges keep giving us, like nailing us on the collectives for suppleness of the back and asking for more bend. Anyway, we moved on to his lengthening, where I panicked a little and kicked him and he shot off. It was a 6.0 with comment “hurried” and I know he can do better, so I’m actually quite OK with the mark. If I ride it properly I think it could be a 7 already, which is huge for me because I’ve struggled with lengthenings for ever.

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hands!!

At the end of the day it was good enough for 63.8% and 4th. And honestly, between God and Thunny, I’m being taken to a completely new place with shows. At the beginning of the year that minor disaster in Prelim 3 would have brought my world crashing down for a few days and opened the door for major self-doubt and anxiety. But it just wasn’t a big deal. I thought, “Well, that was a disaster” and carried on. I have so much more confidence on this horse. I have so much more confidence and enjoyment since I gave it to God. I look forward to shows instead of facing them with fear and dread; I enjoy them instead of enduring them and whatever place I get, I can hug my horse afterwards because he’s so amazing and God is amazing and I love dressage. I take myself so much less seriously, and thus can compete so much more seriously because I breathe in the sport and breathe out the negativity.

It’s so hard to be anxious, stressed, doubtful, and negative when with every stride I feel this overwhelming gratitude and wonder at the Amazing Grace that saved my soul, let alone put me on the back of a horse with a heart as big as a mountain.

God is with us! Glory to the King.

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my boy ❤