“I don’t deserve him.”

“Stop that,” the Mutterer opined, “and get back on the freaking horse.”

It was a year after I had started leasing Magic and we were having a tough lesson. The combination we were jumping was just big enough to make me nervous; I kept trying to make him jump the way I wanted, and he kept trying to please me and having to overjump his way out of trouble as a result. “Give him his head,” the Mutterer was bellowing. “Let him do his job.” Try as I might, I was just as green as the horse; even when my head said one thing my hands were still hauling back on his sensitive mouth, locked on the end of arms as tense as a high wire.

The horse was brilliant and beyond. But I couldn’t ride him the way he needed to be ridden. I wasn’t good enough for him.

“If you say that again,” said the Mutterer calmly, “I will kick your little butt to the other end of the arena.”

Facing this petrifying threat, I reluctantly hauled myself back onto the horse and we trotted back into that combination to fluff it again. And again. And again.


I can’t ride him right. He deserves better.

Magic felt my negative tension getting worse with every stride, and escalated accordingly. He approached the tiny 60cm oxer with his neck getting higher and longer every time his hooves hammered the floor. Once he got there, I hauled back, desperately wanting the deeper spot. Magic knew he would bring us both to the ground if he took the deeper spot so he jumped anyway, like a gazelle, popping me up out of the tack. I landed on his neck. He bolted, terrified. For the sixth time that day.

I’m going to ruin this horse. I don’t deserve him.


“Lord Jesus, I don’t deserve him, but please, I don’t want to lose him.”

It was the fifth day straight of seeing the terrifying agony in the horse’s eyes. He swayed in the horsebox, head hanging low, sweat drenching the coat that was now pulled tight over his bony frame. I pressed my forehead against his brow; he was burning up. “Come on, buddy. Keep fighting.” He rolled a great brown eye to me and it was filled with fire. He wasn’t going to quit. And I, swaying with him, filled with his agony, sleep deprived beyond expression and sick with tension, wasn’t going to quit either.

“I know I don’t deserve him, but I love him. Lord, save him, if it’s Your will.”


“You got this, buddy.”

He cantered through the start with four feet coming down like a waltz, with giant muscles lifting and dancing underneath me. First fence; he had a little look, but I gave my hands forward and he took it in that easy leap that only he has. The course rolled by underneath him until we reached the bending line to the one-stride combination. He saw the long spot; so did I, but I was sure we wouldn’t make the stride if we took it; I reacted before I could think and pulled. It was a mistake. He launched himself into the air, landing so hard we both grunted with the impact, and the next element was right under his nose. I scrambled, grabbed mane, managed only to make a feeble little clicking noise and he bailed us both out. We thundered off, disunited and in a complete mess, but the last fence was still waiting. I braced a fist against his neck, shoved myself back into the saddle and sat up. “The Lord is my Shepherd!” And we floated down to the last fence with his dizzying grace, cleared it without a second thought.

I fell on his neck, intentionally this time, and hugged him. The pure, sleek curve of muscle flexed in my arms, powerful as a breaking wave. “Thank you, buddy. I could never deserve you.” I sat up, rubbed gloved knuckles across the satiny coat; my horse’s whole frame lit up with pleasure, dancing forward. And it’s true: I don’t deserve him. But who could ever deserve half a ton of power and spirit, submitting itself to your foolish whim? Who could ever deserve a heart so mighty, yet so willing to beat in time with yours? I don’t deserve him, but nobody deserves horses.

So I’ll probably never take him to A-grade even though he could take those heights in his stride. So it’s unlikely he’ll ever be ridden to his fullest potential. Magic dances when I touch him, bails me out when I fail; Magic is the horse I didn’t quit on and he doesn’t care that I don’t ride him well enough.

I don’t deserve him, but if you know God, you know it’s not about deserving.


10 More Questions!

So because I’m still horselessly holidaying and the Horde is chilling at home (praise the Lord, Magic is looking better and seems to be on the road to recovery, God willing) you guys get to read some more questions. Sorry. Cool wrap-up on my first real beach ride (squee!) comin right up as soon as I actually go on it.
This idea comes from Chasing the Dream.
1. If your horse was a person, who would they be? (you can generalize personality if you can’t think of someone).
Arwen would be one of those really businesslike young women you find in offices; you know, the clipboard-wielding, pencil-skirt-wearing type.
Magic would be the character that’s always my favourite in an adventure novel: the friendly, sensitive and selfless one whose only fault is his apparent cowardice, the one who cries after battles, who in the end saves everyone after a key event reveals his inner great courage.
Skye is Queen Boadicea: fearless, fiery and defiant of anything that thinks it can conquer her, but a loving mother for all her ferocious protectiveness.
As for Thunder, he’s every girl’s dream guy. Tall and handsome with smooth black hair that falls irresistibly over his eyes, he’ll adore you forever, has impeccable manners and agrees with everything you say.

2. What is one (or two…or five) piece(s) of equipment you CANNOT live without.
Hmm. Probably my helmet, because I may quite literally not be living without it. I’m very attached to Arwen’s wonderful Kent and Masters saddle as well.

3. When did you start riding/ what discipline?
I was four and my chosen discipline was Not Falling Off. Seriously though, I spent the next several years just riding out and staying on with variable success.

4. Do you have a barn dog? If so, what breed?
I am followed everywhere by two German shepherds and two Jack Russels. The shepherds, Cyclone and Blizzard, are the canine equivalents of the angel and demon on Kronk’s shoulders in The Emperor’s New Groove. The Jackies, Yip and Yap, live to run and be snuggled.

5. Do you like doing stalls or nah?
I don’t have stables, but when I do have to muck out I really enjoy it. It’s so satisfying.

6. What treat(s) does your horse go nuts over?
Carrots – it’s all they get, except for apples for special treats, which they adore. Better for them and for my wallet than cookies.

Carrots for cows too!

7. If you’ve switched disciplines, why? If not, also why?
I used to want to be a showjumper, but then I rode my first cross-country course. I’m now desperately hooked on eventing, but I’ll ride anything. I also switched Thunder from dressage to Western because it was more chilled and suitable for a pleasure horse.

8. What is your least favorite discipline and why (yeah, I aint afraid to be scandalous)?
Saddle seat, but only because I don’t understand it. It’s not very pretty in my eyes and I’m not terribly fond of the amount of gadgets used.

9. Who is currently your favorite rider?
The Horse Mutterer; among famous people, easily Charlotte Dujardin. Have you ever seen a position that perfect or a dressage horse that exuberant?

10. What is your BIGGEST pet peeve regarding horses?
The way their people treat each other. So much emphasis has been laid on the love, respect and understanding of the horse, which is amazing, that I know we can love, respect and understand each other even better. There’s no need for us to be down on one another and while I have come across many supportive and loving horse communities, I have to admit that our reputation as stuck up horse people is in many cases well earned.

Random horsy prettiness

Ride Above Hate

“I don’t ride this small stuff. These jumps are boring. Maybe I’d do it bareback, then it would be fun.” She said it with a smile, but it still stung, still cast a faint shadow over the pride I felt in my little grey horse. It was the mare’s first show, and we had had a double clear in the 60cm class.

You don’t know my story, I wanted to tell her. You don’t know how much blood and sweat and tears and how many hours were poured into this horse, or how much work and how much guts and gumption it took to get this far, from the both of us. You don’t know how many issues we worked through or how she was afraid of everything and how brave and hardworking this small, freebie, crossbred mare is. But maybe, maybe she did know about the blood, sweat and tears. Maybe she just wanted to feel a little specialness, a thrill of pride, as we all do. So I said nothing, and I hugged my horse and I was still proud, but I still remember it. And it wasn’t even bullying.


“There are so many things wrong with backing a horse at the age of two, on every level,” the commenter splurged, the very text bursting with the heat of their anger. I felt anger rise in me in return, but swallowed it down. I backed my horse when he was two. He is one of the healthiest, happiest horses under saddle I know. So I still ride him and he’s still happy, but I still remember it. And it wasn’t even bullying.

Every day, everywhere, there are people breaking down others with cruel words and angry glares, pouring out hatred and conviction and spite in a desperate attempt to relieve their own pain, belittling others out of their own lack of self-confidence, trampling on others to get onto their soapboxes and spew anger on them from that pedestal, all to find some sense of self-righteousness and quell their own guilt. Desperate posts from crushed horsepeople splatter across the Internet like innocent blood: “These girls won’t stop making fun of my horse. Help.” “They say I’m too fat to ride, but I love it too much to quit. What should I do?” “They poke fun at me because I’m only competing at a low level, but I don’t want to move up. Should I stop competing?”

Enough is enough.

This has got to stop.

Every horse and every rider is unique, special and amazing. It stands to reason: they were all created. God hand-crafted every human being and all of their equine partners, putting inexpressible love into every cell, every hair, every fibre. We are all beautiful, valuable, beloved beyond all reason – all of us, including the bullied, including the bullies. It is time to stop pointing fingers, to start holding out our hands to help, opening our eyes to the pain in this world and to our marvellous ability to soothe it. Judgment, bitterness, harsh words – this all has to stop. The power of life and death is in the tongue. Literally. How many suicides come about as a result of bullying that never turns physical?

Horsemanship is not about status. It is not about warmbloods or Wintecs or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s not about French links or perfect braids. It’s not about right or wrong or brand names or bling or medals or ribbons or river sand arenas. It’s about that perfect early-morning, precious-memories smell of a sweating horse and the creak of the saddle and the slap of the stirrups and the sound a flying change makes when you get it exactly right. It’s not about the regionals or the championships, or palomino or pinto or bay without chrome. It’s about that summer-lovin’ shimmer of a well-groomed mare and that ecstatic, air-savouring flick at the floating end of an extended trot stride.


It’s not about bloodlines and pedigrees and breeding and feeding, and leather versus synthetic and booting for turnout and making Grand Prix by the time he’s eight years old. It’s about that star-touching, moon-clearing feeling at the apex of a jump and the whiskers of a newborn foal all tangled with youngness. It’s not about being over-matched or over-mounted or finding talent or realising potential. It’s about the heart-filling smile of a disabled four-year-old hugging the neck of a rescued horse, about the warm-honey feeling in your heart when you perfect the rising trot for the first time. It’s not about chiropractors or training methods or fitness or the heart rate of your horse at a gallop. It’s about the pumping of his neck in front of you and the power of his hindquarters and the way he drinks in the wind like he’ll never get enough of it, like the very breath in his lungs is a celebration.

Most of all, it’s not about equipment or events or disciplines or arenas or facilities or famous names. It’s not even about horses. It’s about people. It’s about that special something a horse excites in a human’s heart that makes them want to speak to a creature that can never, in words, reply.

Just playing around with ponies

We are all horsemen. We all know about the smells and the sounds and the feeling of the furry winter coats when you fluff them up the wrong way to make them ripple underneath your hands. We all know how big the sky is when you’re a horse’s height closer to touching it. We know how hard it is to get that horsy greasiness out from under your fingernails when you’ve scratched a foal’s butt until he croons with pleasure. That’s the greatest thing about equestrianism: Young or old, short or tall, rich or poor, fat or thin, able-bodied or not, we can all be horsemen, and we can all know about the love between a human and a beast, about that silent language we use to communicate across species. At the end of the day we all look into those unknowably deep dark eyes and see the stars, and something in them touches our very souls so that a chord sings out pure and clear.


What a beautiful melody we all will play when our horse-touched souls may sing together. Let us reach out to each other with love today. Let our smiles be real, our words as helpful as they are honest, and our actions driven always and forever by that purest and best and greatest motive of them all: love.

Enough is enough. We all love our horses. Let us love one another. #RideAboveHate



I stand against bullying. If you’re looking for another way to take that stand, click here to see where the #RideAboveHate initiative started. Write a post with the video embedded and tell the world why we should love one another. Spread the word and ride above hate.