Feeling the Rain

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.

Achilles
Achilles

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.

Reed, who gave me my stallion confidence back
Reed, who gave me my stallion confidence back

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:

Photo

“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.

VCMBH: Generosity

L from Viva Carlos writes: What made you interested in your current horse that lead you to buying them in the first place?

A bit like this
A bit like this

It was way back in April 2012 that my lovely equine nutritionist kindly gave me a copy of Callaho Warmblood Stud’s auction catalogue for the previous year. This magnificent stud is probably one of the best in our country, and the glossy pages more closely resembled a copy of the Sporting Horse than anything else, with double-page spreads for every horse, ample photographs, an honest and in-depth description, pedigree and video clip on an accompanying CD. And the horses? Bred in the purple; glossy creatures free jumping something that looked about the size of a house with ease. “A description of all the horses seemed to be summed up with “well”,” I wrote in my old blog/journal, “as in well-bred, well-trained, well-groomed and well-cared for.”

It was then that I began to dream of my Olympic horse, my A-grade horse, my show horse. Of course, I already had Skye, Thun, and Arwie; Skye is my heart horse, the first horse I ever trusted, my steadfast friend who never let me down and never will. Thunder also crept into a very deep place in my heart and became a friend, and as for Arwie, my go-anywhere do-anything horse, she’s just way too much fun. But I knew none of them would ever be one of those ridiculously talented horses, those creatures that move and sparkle and know exactly how beautiful they are, that jump as if the whole world is their own trampoline.

Magic8
BOOM!

Writing about my dream horse, I said, “God willing, I hope there is one in my future, something big and sparkly with a jump like a waterbuck and the kind of big heart and stunning conformation that could take us to the top of the game, perhaps even international.”

At the same time, I was occasionally riding a young gelding off the track for his then-owner. “To my delight,” I wrote, “I was allowed to ride beautiful young Magic. … Magic is an iron grey three-year-old with a white blaze and socks. He’s still exploding with muscle, having recently come off the track, and he simply ripples all over when he moves. He has the loveliest gentle face and I adore him.” Another excerpt: “The magnificent Magic… [is] only halfway schooled but I think he’s brilliant. He is a lovely grey colour and has a kind face.”

First time I rode him
First time I rode him

And slowly, this rippling, iron-grey horse started to grow on me. Each time I came to the yard I’d look over to his paddock and watch him; most of the time he’d be running, because he was the kind of horse who would just run for no reason other than that he loved it. And he flashed like a sword’s blade, and when I walked past his paddock he’d run over to say hi and nicker, and I’d think he was adorable. I started to realise that every time the Mutterer told me to go ride Magic, my heart would do a little extra hop-skippity-jump somewhere between fear and excitement.

When Magic came up for sale I just knew it was meant to be. He was everything I wanted in my dream horse, right down to his silly white stockings. But I think aside from practical stuff like his soundness, age and suitability for jumping, there were two deciding factors, if I’m being honest. The first was his jump. I was the first person who rode him over fences and I nearly died (either from nearly falling on my nose or from ecstasy), but I immediately knew he was special, just from the way he charged fearlessly at the cross and by the way he felt:

And this is why. Dat conformation dude!
And this is why. Dat conformation dude!

“He’s got the most awesome jump… he floats. … He jumps AMAZINGLY. He feels over a 40cm cross like Arwen feels over a 90cm jump on a very good day. The whole chest and shoulders and forelegs seem to come straight up into your face and he bends his whole body forward and over and it’s such a beautiful feeling.”

The second was his face. It’s a bit stupid, I guess, but when you look at Magic’s face you know instantly you can trust him; trust him to give you his whole heart and soul if you ask for it, do his best to bail you out of any situation and to never be spiteful. I would not call it the look of eagles because it’s something kinder than that. The closest word I can find for his expression is generosity, and he is indeed a kind and generous horse: he is willing to give you everything he has. And conformation, breeding or talent aside, it’s that great heart, willing spirit, and tremendous kindness that will make Magical Flight a horse in a million.

That face
That face

Magic is Jim Wofford’s “partner, not a slave” (as quoted by the instigator of this blog hop). He has that “supreme courage”, and if I can unlock his potential “very skilfully and very patiently” and above all, “trust him with [my] life” then I know he can be amazing.

God willing.

Just trust me, little human
Just trust me, little human