The Horse’s Default

Recently, I’ve started writing monthly reports for my full training clients. Many of them don’t get to see their horses work much, so to keep in touch with their training, they’d text me for updates and I found myself texting back only short and incomplete answers. Hence, I set aside some time in the beginning of each month to write a comprehensive summary of what their horse was learning. Texts are still welcome, but generally people now have a much better idea of what’s going on.

Writing the reports have proven just as useful to me, as they force me to evaluate and re-evaluate each horse’s personal journey and give reasons for what I’m doing. Not only does it keep me on my toes, it makes me think about what I’m doing instead of running on intuition. Intuition isn’t a bad thing, but it sure makes it difficult to hand the knowledge over to others when all you can really say is “do what feels right” to a person who hasn’t developed the feel just yet.

One interesting thing I found was that most horses have a default. I guess that should be obvious, but it wasn’t, to me. They all have a certain way that they tend to respond to stimuli, and that “default” in large part determines the horse’s trainability.

nell2
should I define trainability for you? Here it is

In general, I’ve found that most horses respond in one of four different ways.

Reactive: When a horse reacts, he flinches away from a stimulus with a swift, jerky movement. For example, on the lunge, he will scoot forward when you pick up the whip. A reactive horse is usually motivated by fear. The horse whose default is to be reactive, is generally a flinchy, hot and spooky sort.

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can still be good kid ponies, for the right kid

Resistant: When a horse resists, he fights against a stimulus. For example, on the lunge, he will kick out when you pick up the whip. A resistant horse is often motivated by pain or desire to be dominant. The horse whose default is to be resistant is sulky, grumpy, and habitually has his ears pinned back.

stardust1
like the majority of old school ponies

Responsive: When a horse responds, he moves away smoothly from a stimulus. For example, on the lunge, he will move calmly forward when you pick up the whip. A responsive horse is generally motivated by willingness to please. The horse whose default is to be responsive is generally pleasant and comes across quite sensitive.

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yep here it is

Unresponsive: When a horse fails to respond, he ignores a stimulus. For example, on the lunge, he will stand there when you pick up the whip. An unresponsive horse is generally motivated by laziness or boredom. The horse whose default is to be unresponsive will be dead quiet, patient, and stoic, and can sometimes give the impression of not being “all there”.

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but still *are* all there – you just have to dig deeper, right, Z?

Horses also have a sort of “volume”. Not all reactive horses will necessary scoot forward when you pick up the whip. Some will merely step out more briskly than anticipated; others will panic and plunge through the fence. The vast majority of resistant horses never kick out or buck; they just pin their ears. This is why so many back pain and saddle fit issues go unnoticed. Just because a horse is easy to handle doesn’t mean its default is good, it just means its volume’s been turned down, and that can be a good thing – or a bad thing.

One would also think, looking at the list, that all horses should be responsive by default. That’s not true. Remember that horses tend to react to all outside stimuli according to their default – not just aids. Sure you want a horse to respond to your aids, but you don’t want him to respond to a dressage letter, not even if that just means quietly moving away from it. The best horses are a trained balance between responsive and unresponsive, leaning one way or another according to their job. Arwen is more towards the responsive because she’s an adult’s dressage horse who needs to deal with complicated sets of aids in rapid succession. Bruno was far more towards the unresponsive side, because he had to ignore all spooky objects in favour of keeping a kid safe.

Reactive and resistant horses, however, are almost always unhappy; it’s easy to see why – one is motivated by fear or pain, and the other is motivated by pain or by being in the wrong place in their hierarchy. We all know how gross it feels to be in a place where you don’t belong, even if you put yourself there.

All these types of horses (although many horses don’t fit in any of the boxes) need to be approached differently. That’s the most important part of listening, after all: actually acting on what you’ve been told.

Here’s a few little case studies.

Magic‘s default used to be reactive. He feels things deeply, and he expresses them dramatically. Pushing his limits never, ever works – it just makes him go up like a mushroom cloud. Patience and understanding are absolutely key to keeping him happy. The upside of being reactive is that it’s a small – difficult and key, but small – change to becoming responsive, which he has become by a massive effort.

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just like me, I guess

Jamaica used to be excessively unresponsive – to the point where it became complete disobedience and quite dangerous. His automatic reaction was just to hang on your hands till Kingdom come no matter what you did to him. You could flap, you could kick, you could do whatever you pleased – he’d just plough onwards. Unresponsive horses can be very rewarding because they’re fairly easy and safe to train out of it, and then you can really fine-tune the level of responsive you want. Jamaica proved to be one of those. He still has unresponsive moments, but he’s starting to decide that moving away from pressure is generally a good idea. On the plus side, he’s by default not spooky, and because I never trained him to respond to anything except my aids, he remains non-spooky.

Unresponsive horses can be really, really hard to get a read on. Some unresponsive horses have shut down, like a dog that just takes the kick because he knows it’s coming anyway. They bear pain and ill-treatment because it’s the only way they know how to cope. They can hide a tremendous amount of pain. Mercifully, most unresponsive horses are just really chill dudes at heart, who like to roll with it because that’s the way they are. Bruno comes to mind.

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unresponsive trained to be responsive = happy, and gets ribbons

Destiny is the most resistant horse I’ve ever met, and his volume was turned all the way up to the top. He wouldn’t just kick out at the lunging whip, he’d spin around and fly backwards, double-barreling at head height all the way and bringing to mind the legend that the Lipizzaners’ capriole was developed to decapitate footsoldiers. I sure thought he was going to decapitate me. Resistant horses, although a battle, are still an easier fix than reactive horses. Even though this chap’s problem wasn’t pain (which resistant horses almost always are in), he was more easily fixable than you would believe if you’d seen him at the height of his issues. Unfortunately, they’re not a pleasant fix in any way. There’s really two main ways to respond to resistance; to remove the stimulus so that they have nothing left to resist against, thus taking them by surprise and often removing the bitterness from the situation, or to resist their resistance more strenuously than they can resist you. When it comes to head-height double-barreling, option (b) is the only option that will leave you with your head still on. Removing the stimulus and rewarding aggression is a recipe from disaster. Hence, Destiny got a hiding. A big hiding. Now, his default is still to be resistant, but in the matter of a month we’ve got the volume turned down from enormous violence to merely pinning the ears. It’s not as good as resetting the default, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

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Destiny the Reformed

As for responsive, there’s not a lot of horses that are this way after people are done with them. A surprising number of horses are naturally responsive – they just get made either reactive or resistant, because the best horses are always the easiest to ruin. I love me a responsive horse. Nell was one of them, and we all know that she was just epic. The most responsive horse I have right now is undoubtedly Faith. I never had to teach her to move away from pressure because she had it programmed into her DNA. Once she knows how to move away from the pressure, she just does it without any fuss. She can come across spooky because she’ll move away (not leap away) from a scary thing, but personally, I don’t mind those. Nell was the same and as soon as you’ve got the whole moving-away-from-the-leg thing programmed they respond to your leg instead of the scary thing and do what you wanted. (Assuming you made yourself more important and valuable in their lives than scary things). Responsive + willing + gentle + intelligent = most trainable thing you’ll ever clap eyes on.

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and you’re clapping eyes on it now

Now for the million-dollar question, of course. What was the natural default of the majestic, legendary dragonbeast herself? I bet you’ll all be shocked to discover that Arwen was naturally unresponsive. Yep, you read that right. The dragon was the most unresponsive horse you’ve ever seen, and she still has that tendency lurking inside her. I like it because it makes her a lot more robust to my mistakes and whoopsies. It takes a while to train an aid on her, so while she learns good things a little slowly, she also learns bad things a little slowly, which is quite important when you’re doing dressage by trial and error like I am.

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just when you thought you had me all figured out, huh?

The vast majority of horses are complicated tangles of all four defaults, as well as having splashes of random other stuff thrown in. Many are born with one default and go on to be trained to have several different ones. All of them have reacted in all four different ways at some stage in their lives, for multitudes of different reasons. As an example, Nugget is a naturally unresponsive horse who became extremely reactive (with flashes of violently resistant) and is now gradually being trained to be unresponsive again, but with bits of responsive when I ask for them. And she’s only ever had two different handlers, really.

And to turn everything on its head a little, let me remind us all that people and horses are deeply similar, right at the bottom of things. We also react to the greatest Stimulus of all in different ways. Some of us fight Him. Some of us run from Him. Some of us ignore Him.

And some of us hear His voice, and move forward with confidence to do as He asked.

Glory to the King.

Sunrise to Sunset

One perk of long hours and changing seasons is that I get to see the sky changing every morning and evening.

I suppose the sweeping expanse of colour should leave me feeling diminutive. Futile. A dirty, scrabbling little thing cowering on the face of a mighty universe. That’s all I am, after all. But here’s the beauty of the Gospel: the sunrise and sunset make me feel special. I almost blush watching it; it’s like a bunch of favourite flowers unexpectedly sent from my Lover.

I feel like He paints the sky for me. In a way I guess He does: the same way as Jesus died for me. For me in the most intensely personal way, and for all of us in the most magnificently all-embracing and equal way.

The space between this sunrise and sunset was pretty chock full. New junior groom L was kept on her toes, poor girl, but performed admirably. I got the day off to a good start by jumping a full course at 75cm on Jamaica, the easiest fence set to 80cm. I got off twice to check I’d actually set it to 80 because it felt small. Jamaica jumped brilliantly; I held him for a close spot and took the pole in the first attempt, but the second time he went clear and on the correct leads, if getting a couple of dodgy distances (my fault).

Arwen also schooled in the dressage for the first time. It was amazing. I really got to play around and try random stuff without worrying about hills or other horses, and we had a brilliant session. I was pleasantly surprised that she was easily able to complete a leg-yield down the log diagonal. We also did approximately three million simple walk changes. My canter-walk transitions aren’t any good at the best of times, but I struggled at first today until I started to use my brain for a change and squish her canter up to a super-collected little bounce before asking. I was so flabbergasted that she gave me a true, active collected canter, followed by a perfect canter-walk, that we called it a day immediately.

don’t let her fool you. She breaks out on a regular basis

Thunder was kind of an idiot today. He’s spooky and anxious in the new arena and went so far as to bolt a few steps until I caught him, so he’s being grounded from riding school work for at least a month while I sort him out. In his good moments he’s feeling super.

Sunè took a fairly new rider for a w/t/c and behaved brilliantly. I hopped on afterward and ran through our performance riding test for Saturday. She’s getting the leads better, but connection is still a bit of a sticking point.

Icey hates me for making him get up so early

Destiny is back to work after having had the snot kicked out of him by Starlight, and gave me a really super session including his first canter. Once I did get him to canter he went off so happily and freely forward that I panicked and thought my brakes had left, applying them sharply. He stopped so obediently he nearly catapulted me over his head. Apparently the delinquent can change his spots.

Eagle wore his first bridle, seeing that his lunging is now quite firmly established in three gaits, minus some anxious moments in walk.

Trooper is slowly improving. I get the impression he’s still kind of immature and needs a little time. I’ll give him another two weeks and see if he perks up about the whole work idea, but if not, I’ll just establish his lunging and give him a month to grow up and settle in some more. He is perfectly delighted to hang out with me – it’s the running about that he objects to.

We finished off with a slew of lessons. I’m particularly proud of Zorro and Z-kid -he’s come a long way from his trademark giraffe look.

and so shiny!

Liana also jumped a clear round at 50cm with her kid, a huge relief in light of her recent jumping trouble. I’ll school her tomorrow too, but she’s pretty ready for Saturday.

Long past sunset now – so bed. Glory to the King.

A New Place

I haven’t written much about Magic recently.

he’s so cute
The main reason for that is that the poor chap has just sort of whinnied at me as I flew past this week. It’s hard being the manager’s pet – he always seems to come second when the mango strikes the fan. I’ve groomed him, lunged him once, kissed his nose as I went past and sat on him for like 10 minutes on Tuesday.

No longer able to bear it, tonight after all the lessons were done and silence descended on the yard, I pulled him out of his field at last and we had some Magic time.

also cute here

Our relationship has found its way to a new place. It’s different, and sometimes a little weird, but it’s good. Oh, it’s very, very good.

There’s no pressure. I haven’t ridden without pressure since Skye retired years ago, and I barely remember what it’s like. Letting go of that seriousness, that deadly focus, that constant vigilance for the slightest slip in training or position has been – hard. Like unclenching a death grip. But so liberating. And especially so for my precious Magic.

He’s always loved work, but he’s never been this excited to get to work. He lights up these days. His good days are exuberantly happy. His bad days are so much less bad now that we both know that if he’s not coping today, then it’s just fine. We do what he can do. We don’t ask for more than he has. We play, we enjoy, we seek to rediscover the comfort zone I’d smothered in pressure.

We breathe.

And as God holds Magic up like a mirror to my soul, I learn to do something I’m truly no good at.

Without backsliding, without sinning, to give myself a break. And to see me the way He does.

Wreathed in timeless love.

OK so I couldn’t decide which one was cutest so you get all of them

So as we merrily bound through a gymnastic line and get all the strides wrong, or jump the same 40cm cross one million times, or gallop around above the bit, or hack bareback on a loose rein, or just hand graze – as nothing happens whatsoever in our training, something incredible happens in our souls. It’s that thing that God used to call me to the yard in the first place. That thing He does in the place where the equine heart meets the human soul.

That thing that happens when our jagged, ugly, broken pieces fit into one another, crack for crack, and God makes something beautiful from our very brokenness. That thing, that indescribable thing that only He can do…

I don’t know its name. But the closest thing I can find is “healing”.

Chilling

We have our first show of the year on Sunday; a training show over tiny fences at a venue I’ve only ridden at more times than I have teeth. I’m on Magic, who has done 60 and 70cm ad nauseam, and Lancelot, who is super at shows.

And I’m absolutely dead nervous.

No, the show nerves do not go away. I’ve only been competing for about four years now, but I’ve ridden multiple shows on multiple horses every month and logged a lot of miles. I’ve brought a bunch of babies to their first show and I’m so well versed in boxing horses in the dark that it’s not even drama anymore. I’ve ridden nationals and finals and in the same arena as some of the greats – I should be used to this by now.

But here I am, facing 60 and 70cm training courses on horses I know at a training show, terrified.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think my horses were also subscribed to the Facebook event because the closer we come to the day, the worse they go. Especially Magic. Magic was a pogo stick on Thursday; I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t turn him, I couldn’t get him to jump in a straight line and after every fence he leapt up and down, striking out with his forelegs in a kind of reverse buck.

Always before a show, Magic? Why?

at least he’s now a fat lunatic

I was a little mad but I patted his neck after dismounting and tried to figure out what was bothering him this time. Food? Teeth? Back? Feet? No.

As usual, it was far simpler than that.

It was me, of course.

So today I climbed aboard and we flopped around like we do any other day. I put on worship music and thought about the latest episode of Chicago Med while I warmed him up, letting my mind wander so that my hands, seat and heart could do the thinking. We trotted a few small fences. Then we cantered them. There was a storm brewing and the wind teased at us, making the horses in the fields skittish and silly, but Magic put down his head and enjoyed his job.

I did the same on Lancelot. I put all the fences and my ego down two holes and trotted a little course. He’d been napping and overjumping. We had the usual little argument or two, but he jumped every fence out of a steady soft rhythm.

So here’s my new resolve: I’m gonna chill out about training shows. I’m going to quit seeing them as shows and start seeing them for what they are – schooling sessions. I’m going to turn myself deaf to the imaginary judgment from the sidelines with which I torment myself, and the pressure of riding a client horse, and the pressure of being coach. I’m going to quit taking myself so seriously, cut a little slack and start riding the horse, for my God.

worth it ❤

I’ll wear my work breeches and a slightly faded shirt. I won’t clean my tack. I’ll sleep a little later than I probably should and when clients or students or chauffeur begin to stress, I’ll breathe deep and slow and calm us all down. That’s my job as trainer, after all.
As for Magic? Maybe we’ll do the 60 and the 70. Or maybe we’ll do the 50 and the 60. Maybe we’ll just hack in the warm-up arena because it really doesn’t matter.

He’s not going to win me ribbons. He’s far too busy being an instrument in the hand of God, teaching me the most incredible things about horses and people and life and God.

Glory to the King.

On Rainbows

It’s still too soon. It might always be. The pain subsides slowly, but the words still don’t come.

So this is not the whole story, or the whole piece of the story that’s revealed to me, anyway. It’s just the bare bones of what happened so that in the blog as in life I can turn my face to the future.

Rainbow was the incredible gift from God (via Nell’s breeder) that came to keep my dream alive after Nell left. She was one of the most beautiful horses I’ve known. She was undoubtedly the one with the best natural temperament. She had so much love for everyone and something in her heart sang in harmony with mine. I called her Rainbow because she was the beautiful thing that happened after the storm. The symbol of the promise.

I was so worried that she wouldn’t be Nell. And she wasn’t Nell. She was Rainbow, and she was perfect.

But her destiny and mine kissed only briefly in this present world. God called His most willing charger back to the celestial ranks of His army only days after we met. It was His will; it was for the best; it was agony. I thank Him for every moment I had with the horse my heart sang to and I thank Him that He has bigger plans for her, wherever good horses go when they die.

As for my dream, it was dead without a brilliant dressage horse. But we all know what God does to death.
We’ll never forget Rainbow. But we have a new hope for the dream He laid on my heart. A dream I laid down at His feet when Rainbow passed on, and which He lifted up and handed right back to me.

She’s not Rainbow. But she’s also perfect.

I named her Faith: the thing by which we will weather the storms to follow.

Fourways Graded Dressage 19 November

I was expecting a lot of dragoning at our first show back after Arwen’s usual six weeks off this time of year, especially considering that she had only been back in work for two weeks. So I was extremely thankful when she got off the box looking quiet and focused.

We were good and early into the warm-up; I anticipated having to ride her down from a dizzy height but she was excited, not hot. I had a nice, settled horse when dressage coach S. arrived and roundly kicked our behinds for half an hour. Arwen, apparently, is not the only unfit one (although mercifully I have not gotten utterly obese, unlike her). We were out of puff but focused, educated and ready when S. bounced off way too energetically to get on like her third horse of the day, leaving my fat beast and I to waddle panting up to the show ring.

Arwen was great. She concentrated, she put her head down, she didn’t blow through my aids and she was as usual exceedingly obedient. We did gallop around a few corners like a motorbike but hey, who says one can’t randomly do a spot of showjumping mid dressage test?

Fat neck looks fab anyway

We had 61.25% for Novice 3, where she pleasantly surprised me with some nice counter canter and I sort of forgot some of the test and added a trot-walk-trot transition. But it was a fabulous transition, so there’s that.

Novice 4 we had two very messy halts but the rest was quite solid for 62.25%. Considering my goal was to get over 60% and thus grading points in both tests, I could not have been happier. Plus dragon beast looked incredible.

I finally learned to plait!

Glory to the King.

Taking Up the Cross

​ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. – Matthew 16:24

The past two months was really a journey in following this verse for me. Our minister preached about this concept somewhere in mid October, and I prayed with all my heart that Jesus would give me the strength to do exactly this. That I would do it, come Hell or high water… and that’s pretty much what happened.


So lots of bad stuff happened:

  • Olive came down with a neurological virus, possibly herpes. She was very very sick and had to be quarantined and intensively nursed.
  • Milady then got strangles, followed by Exavior, Titan, and Destiny.
  • Because we now had TWO outbreaks at the yard, we had to shut the whole thing down for two weeks. Yep, no lessons for two weeks. That was a financial kick in the guts.
  • A friend kind of turned on me. Personal stuff, but it always leaks into the yard when my emotional state isn’t perfect.
  • We had a massive hailstorm and the lightning damaged our gate, borehole pump, and power supply.
  • I lost the ride on my beautiful Nell.
  • Magic colicked. Again.

    Yes, again

    What’s God’s own stableyard to do faced with such catastrophes? Well, pray and trust Him. And well… Romans 8:28.

    • Olive recovered beautifully and not a single other horse contracted her thing. As a result, we’re tightening our vaccination program and have instituted a quarantine period for all new horses. Olive and my mom also developed an amazing bond, which is so great for the floof because she never really connected with me.
    • Not only did all the strangles horses recover without any abscesses bursting, Milady’s 5-day-old foal didn’t get it! Also I am probably going to pass the illnesses section in my exam, which I had been worried about…
    • My mom and dad told our yard mascot cookie lady prayer warrior awesomeness about the financial whack of losing two weeks’ lessons. She declared that we would get the money back and went straight to battle on her knees. Shortly thereafter, a client that had been owing us for months paid. Mom called to tell her that she’d overpaid a little – turned out she’d paid us by “accident”. I don’t believe in accidents.
    • The outbreak and all its drama drew me closer and closer to God; without the strength I gained from that, I doubt there’s any way I could have coped with the personal stuff.
    • The hailstorm brought with it the best rain we’ve had in three years. Now we’re up to our eyeballs in grass for the cows and horses.
    • I thought Nell’s new owner was some spoilt rich kid until I spoke to her mom. She’s a special needs teenager, someone who needs a beautiful, loving horse even more than I do. Nell is going to be an instrument of God’s power in her life – just as she was in mine. Nell’s price is also letting her retired owner replace his wrecked vehicle and is helping towards his medical bills.
    • Gutted about Nell, without a good dressage horse, my future career seemingly in tatters, I prayed: “Lord Jesus, if it’s not Your will for me to compete extensively myself, if I should conserve those resources for the kids, then please don’t let me ever have a good horse again. But if it’s Your will, please, send me one.” I prayed this ready to face the fact that I would never go up the levels: I just don’t have the money to build up the yard for everyone that needs it and own a good dressage horse, and I know which one I’m choosing. Hours later, Nell’s owner called: in return for schooling Nell, he wanted to pay me a commission. I couldn’t bear to accept money for the blessing Nell has been, so I refused it. “Okay,” he said. “Then you can come and pick out any young mare you like to train and show.” I hesitated; I didn’t know if I wanted to go through this heartache again so soon. “No, you don’t understand,” he said. “This one will be yours. In your name. You keep her.” Then I just cried, out of gratitude to him, out of awe of the dynamic and real power of God and His plan in our lives.
    • Magic’s colic was so bad we had to box him and take him to Witbos, the vets that fixed him last time. On the way there, I desperately called on everyone I know and a bunch of people on Facebook that I don’t to pray for him. We all prayed, and when we unloaded him, that horse was fine. The rather puzzled vets scanned his healthy guts, kept him under observation for two hours, and sent him home because there was nothing wrong with him.
    Nothing wrong with this

    We will praise God no matter what the storm. Because our God is faithful, our God is powerful, and our God is in charge.

    The condition for a miracle is difficulty. The condition for a great miracle is impossibility. And that’s exactly what we have seen.

    Glory to the King.

    I think this is their way of praising Him

    Introducing Lullaby

    Nine months down the line and I once again found myself in the position where I had more kids to teach than ponies they could ride. Both Stardust and Thunder were starting to look burned out again, and I frequently had to rope Arwen in for lessons (she was not popular; apparently super-fit event ponies do not make awesome schoolies…). When Bruno was sold, my lesson situation went from just making it to somewhat dire and something had to be done.

    This time I had a little cash on hand from the sale, but I knew we’d barely broken even on Bruno and his money had to stretch really far. It’s amazing how expensive the dentist gets when it goes from four horses to twenty-four… Either way, I put up a wanted ad and started shopping. We spent an exhausting morning in Pretoria trying ponies that were so almost perfect, but just… not quite. Then one of the yards right here in Heidelberg put up an advert for one of their schoolies. I gave it a cursory glance and decided to go have a look, mostly just because it was close by. The pony was smaller and older than I wanted, but I was getting desperate. As always, it’s at this point that God stepped in – right where desperation meets necessity.

    I tried the pony. It was adorable, but violently spooky and well into its teens. Driving away, I knew the sensible decision would be to say thanks but no thanks. I’d seen better ponies in Pretoria. And yet… something kept me from making that call. There was just something about her that I couldn’t ignore and I didn’t really know what it was. A vibe, a gut feeling. She just felt quiet and gentle even though she hadn’t acted like it. Honestly, though, I believe that feeling wasn’t all about the pony. The other ponies had been quieter, but they hadn’t had the irresistible attraction that this one did. I texted the owner and asked if I could view her again.

    The endlessly patient seller agreed to let me ride the pony again, so I arrived, not totally clear on why exactly I was doing this, and remounted the pony. She started to nap near the corner she’d spooked at last time and overjumped a little cross extravagantly, but her rhythm was excellent. She had that I’ll-do-this-all-day, stuck-to-the-track patience of a real riding school pony. She was also sound – sound as a brass bell, healthy as could be despite her age. And adorable, obviously used to children, easy to tack up and handle, and thoroughly experienced. But I was still kind of undecided about the whole thing given the spookiness. What kind of a yard manager buys a spooky schoolie?

    Eventually, I couldn’t resist the pull anymore. Nothing else felt right. So I threw up my hands. “Lord, as Thou wilt.” We bought the pony. The poor little soul was shunted straight into my lesson program the next day and became an instant hit. Kids started to fight over who got to ride her, whether they were tiny tots or already jumping. That weekend, I put her and Stardust in the horsebox and shipped them off to do pony rides. It was at the back of the feed shop, with a busy road next door and vehicles coming in and out to be noisily loaded; at one stage an enormous trailer drove in and started to offload 5000l tanks with a tremendous racket.

    The new pony was unbothered by the traffic, unphased by the vehicles, and merely walked a circle around me at the offloading of the tanks. She didn’t spook. Not even once. I could almost hear God saying, “Do you trust Me now, daughter?”

    She came with the name Lulu, and remains Lulu to friends. But I named her Lullaby, because like the song*, she’s become a reminder of True Love.

    * WARNING – mild profanity in the song. Sorry about that, but its message makes it worth the listen.