Twelve years ago, when I was three, my family and I moved to our little lovely farm in the middle of the Highveld.
Instantly, I was smitten with farming and everything to do with it. I had always loved animals, and farming – even on a tiny scale – took my love to a whole new level.
When I was five my parents gave me my first dog, a wriggling ball of Border collie fluff, promptly named Flower. Soon afterwards I was given my first gentle Jersey cow, Blinkers. When I was seven, The Amazing Parents bought me the creature I’d wanted since I could remember – a glorious golden horse.
The golden horse, Skye, and I walked a long road together and we’re still walking. Together with my instructor, known as the Horse Mutterer, she taught me to ride. She was always patient, always spirited, and never spiteful, and only bucked me off if I deserved it.
Through her, though I didn’t know it, God was teaching me things, too. Patience and perseverance and caring for a fellow creature; confidence, and courage, and love. All these things I began to learn without even knowing the Person who invented them.
Until May 2011. A dark autumn. That season, more than one thousand horses died of Africa’s killer disease, AHS. Skye was almost one of them. She fought her way through her illness with the indomitable spirit and fearless faith that God put inside her, and the Lord fought with her every step of the way.
It was in that autumn that I learned how to pray. Not proudly or because of a vague sense of duty, or to impress or out of habit. Out of a desperate need to know that there was Someone out there Who really cared; Someone even more powerful, even more loving than my parents. That was the first time I ever laid a burden down at the foot of the Cross. I laid Skye down, and God gave her right back.
Skye bounced straight back into health, making a miraculous full recovery and blossoming back into her muscled, shining self, the best and bravest horse in the world. The first time I rode her after she was sick, she was so happy she could have danced to the stars if gravity had let her. Amidst clinging on for dear life amidst the happy prancing and bucking – I had neglected to bring a saddle and was beginning to regret that decision – my heart opened up and Jesus walked in. And turned my whole world unpside down in the most wonderful way imaginable.
One year later, here I am, still with my magnificent, brave friend Skye, and with my even more magnificent and even braver Friend, Lord Jesus. And of course the stunning, stunning family that made it all possible; Mom, Dad and my gun-slingin’, bronc-ridin’, sharp-shootin’, cupcake-makin’, ballet-dancin’ sister, Rain Megan.
Skye is joined by her Horde, seven other valiant steeds of varying degrees of valiancy and steedness:
1. Thunderbird, a 14.2hh, rising two-year-old bay colt. Thunder is as patient as a stone, as gentle as a breeze and as magnificent as a storm. His mother is Skye (a horse of her own breed) and his sire, Achilles, a part-Friesian stallion.
2. Arwen, a 14.1hh, rising six-year-old grey mare. Arwen is a Nooitgedachter Sport Horse (albeit unregistered). She’s gentle, pretty, reliable, and has a massive jump in her when she can be persuaded to use it. She’s my up-and-coming (and one-and-only) showjumping prospect.
3. Arwen’s Little Secret, a 12.1hh, not yet one-year-old dark bay colt. Secret is smarter than he looks but also very patient, possessing a truly wonderful temperament. His mother is Arwen and his father Achilles, and I wish I didn’t have to sell him.
4. Dancer, a 14.2hh, rising two-year-old dark bay filly, full sister to Secret. Dancer (occasionally known as Double D, short for Dangerous Dancer) is extremely spirited, extremely intelligent, and an extreme pain in the neck. She’s far too clever for her own good and has a massive amount of personality. I wish I didn’t have to sell her either, because once that huge heart is on your side, she’s the kind of horse who’d do whatever you ask with all her heart.
5. Siobhan, a 13.2hh, rising four-year-old bay mare. Siobhanny belongs to Rain and the two pests can get up to quite a lot of trouble sometimes, but they’re both loyal, lovable, and never boring. Siobhan hates jumping and getting dressed up in pink ribbons. She taught me half of what I know about young horses and I was very pleased to give her to Rain instead of selling her. Arwen’s first foal.
6. Copper, Siobhan’s fluffy little colt foal of about six months. He’s a bit of a nag with poor conformation and a bratty manner to match, but this little guy is just exploding with cheek, cuteness, and personality. A typical pony, Copper is peppy and playful and gives me no end of problems.
7. Achilles, a 15.1hh, rising six-year-old black stallion. He’s about to be sold off into a new home (I hope), but I will miss him.
Apart from the horses, there are the four dogs that gallivant through life with me in that endlessly happy way that dogs have of doing things: Flower the collie, ageing a little now but still full of life; Hope the greyhound, queen of drama and beauty; and the two Disasters, a pair of German shepherd puppies named Cyclone and Blizzard. The twosome can cause more trouble than a pair of tornadoes on the loose and never leave my side.
Last but not least, I’m the owner of Joyful Jerseys, home to 17 purebred Jersey cattle.
I was nine and a half years old when I started writing my first novel. It was 65 000 words of junk, but it was a beginning. Now at the age of fifteen I’m working on my eleventh story over 30 000 words. Its working title, Sparrowhawk, is pretty awful and to be honest so is the rest of it, but with the help of a group of authors from Magical Words, I’m revising and rewriting it over and over in an attempt to publish a Christian fantasy that can change the way teenagers think about magic.
So that’s the Horde and my story so far. What’s yours?