Like thousands of people from all over the globe, I’m writing 50 000 words in 30 days. Or trying to, anyways. Output has never been my strong point; I’ve been writing Another Sword since August and I’m about to finish it now (or at least, whenever I get around to it), which is good going for me.
I decided to try NaNo because I needed motivation to write every day, write fast, keep writing and just bang down that first draft without listening to my dear little friend the Inner Editor. And I have to say that in that respect, it’s really working. I’ve been writing virtually every single day, and lots every day; because I miss a day or two each week, I write 2000+ on the days that I do write, and I have had a few insane days of 4-5000 words. All you die-hard Wrimos who do crazy stuff like 10 000 words, I take my hat off to you. I wrote about 4000 words today and I feel like my brain has been wrung out like a sponge.
But I’m staying on top of it, having hit my target word count for the week. With less than a week to go, A Promise for the Horses is now 41 880 words long. I think I might just do it – hit 50K, anyway. Whether the novel will fetch up at just 50 000 words, I don’t know. I haven’t written anything that short for years; even my first novel, which I wrote at age nine and a half, was 60 000 words. (60 000 words of trash, but still, 60 000 words).
Thankfully, school is winding down around now – being homeschooled, I only start writing real exams next year – so I can still get around to NaNo in between farm, horses, and other commitments.
The horsies have been going really well. Skye and most of her Horde were vaccinated for AHS in October and are just about over their resting periods now. The golden charger herself is coming back into work. Thanks to God, she is as sound as a brass bell after months of that niggling lameness, although she is terribly unfit. Still, I’m being careful and conditioning her back into work very slowly. Starting with half-an-hour of walking (with a little bit of trotting and a tiny bit of cantering to keep us happy) four or five times a week, I’ll build her work up slowly. Thankfully, living on a big, beautiful area of farmland as we do – with a magnificent farm all to ourselves and obliging farmers on both sides – and on Skye’s beautiful marching walk, soft as butter in my hands, it’s not easy to be bored.
I suspect that she may have a bit of trouble with her teeth at the moment; she’s been dropping bits of half-chewed pellets while she eats, and as an idle horse eating 1.8kg of concentrate every day, she should be as round as a barrel. Instead, she’s been losing a little weight. She’s still pretty healthy, with a glowing coat, bright eyes and happy attitude, but a visit from the horse dentist may be necessary. That should be fun; Skye is a wonderful, gentle horse, but she’s not the most placid when it comes to strangers (especially men) picking up her feet or poking fingers in her mouth. It took the Mutterer years to trim Skye’s feet without her leaping about like a pogo stick.
Wilful, unfit, naughty, whatever. She’s my splendid Skye and God’s own horse, and I adore her. It’s like this; give Siobhan an inch and she’ll take a mile; give Arwen an inch and she’ll politely ignore it; give Skye an inch and she’ll give you back a mile. She’s a star when it comes to teach lessons, too. On Tuesday I was teaching two of my (three) students to post to the trot. This is always a tough one to teach, but to my delight the girls quickly got the hang of it; being ballerinas as well, they’re pretty strong and used to moving rhythmically. Upon being asked to trot, Skye, who was a bit fresh, cried in delight Charge Forth Noble Steed! and almost cantered off with her rider, who is the smallest of my students, and I ran after yelling “Pull the reins! Pull the reins!” while said rider beamed all over her face. Luckily, Skye has good brakes and dropped quickly if reluctantly into a walk. Dear fiery angel.
Arwen is not being fiery, fortunately and unfortunately; on outrides, she is much improved. She hardly ever spooks anymore, and when she does, she calms down afterwards very quickly. On paths that she knows well, we can even canter or (on paths she knows VERY well) have a nice, controlled, well-behaved gallop.
In the arena she’s being a bit lazy again, but the Mutterer lent me his spurs. I was, initially, revolted at the idea of stabbing my poor darling baby horsy with nasty metal spikes. However, they’re little English-riding dressagey spurs, I know what I’m doing with my lower legs (most of the time), and it actually worked really well. I can control how much pressure I want to put on her, and it’s easy to use my legs without using the spurs; when I do want to use the spurs I can. I used to ride her with a whip, but the trouble with the whip is that I can’t use it without interfering with my hands, my contact on her mouth and, hence, her frame. She’s not fond of the spurs, but I only use them when she’s being daft, so the daftness is steadily decreasing.
Jumping-wise, we did hardly anything for a while. This took its toll and Arwen began to stop a little again; although, to be fair, she only did it when faced with a big jump – a 90cm double. A few days’ schooling and her jumping is way improved. Yesterday, I warmed her up and took her straight to the big double and she jumped it well every time; once she was very out of rhythm and knocked the pole down, but that was my fault because I was in Firnyland and paying no attention to what I was actually doing.
Then we made the jump higher and turned it into an upright about 1.00 or 1.05m high. She had one slippery stop, jumped beautifully from her favourite side, jumped nastily from her least favourite side, ran out, and then jumped it beautifully twice. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: As long as I commit, Arwen will do it. I have been dreadfully absentminded lately, which must contribute a lot to Arwen’s stopping.
Thunder’s work has consisted mostly of gentle lungeing. I am minus one long line (having left it at my neighbour’s farm after riding her cute old bay horse, Bruno) and so have been lungeing him with a single line, teaching him voice commands. He’s getting better, and much, much more responsive, although he’s a little nervous of cantering. You could yell at Dancer all you like and if she was very naughty she was usually put right with a sharp flick from the whip, but if you try it on Thunder, he just gets scared and confused. He needs a lot of patience, but as he’s always been patient with me, I think I can be patient with him. He had a few bucks with the saddle on, but quickly got used to it. I also spent one day running about next to him, holding the reins over his withers, teaching him to stop and turn and even back up; I took the halter off him and taught him to respond purely to pressure from the bit. He learnt it well, although backing up isn’t his favourite, and he carries his head nicely – he doesn’t poke his face in the air or pull against the bit. I just can’t wait to ride this lovely horse.
By the way, I think that star looks like a lightning bolt, fitting for a horse called Thunder. The Mutterer disagrees and tells me I’m thinking wishfully. Am I?
Then, of course, there’s the awesomest thoroughbred in the world, a certain somebody named Magic. Man, I adore that horse. God is great! I mean, how can it be that I (who already has four horses with among the best temperaments I’ve ever come across, as well as looks) found, at exactly the right moment, for exactly the right price, a horse who has it all just perfect – talent, temperament, looks, training, size, and age? I wanted a horse with good breeding for jumping, excellent conformation, enough spirit without any malice, some basic training put in place, who was still quite a baby, not too tall for me, and was nice-looking on top of it all. Plus, the wistful little girl in me wanted a grey or chestnut with as prominent white markings as possible. All this for a less-than-exorbitant price.
What did I find? A beautifully conformed horse, excellently built for jumping, with a short, strong back, light and high forehand and correct legs. A thoroughbred, amongst the most popular jumping breeds. A lively, spirited horse with bounce, flair and zest for life, yet a big, kind, gentle heart made of gold. A horse with most of the bucks taken out of him who is not a lunatic on outrides and walks, trots and canters reliably without bucking, but has no advanced training in the way of jumping, changing leads and so on. A four-year-old, 15.1hh, and an absolutely gorgeous grey with a big blaze and four white socks.
I mean, people, how can that be a coincidence? I wasn’t driving over the country looking at hundreds of horses. The day after I advertised a horse of mine for sale at a certan price, this horse came onto the market for exactly the same price and his owner offered him to me. The amazing horse I mentioned above. God’s hand is in this; it’s holding mine.
I already have the three most amazing horses in the world – gentle Arwen, willing Thunder and, most of all, that splendid, shining mare, Skye. And now my friend the Lord Jesus dropped this lovely horse in my lap. He’s not mine yet; we’re still leasing him, trying him out, making sure that we’re making the right choice. But I fall more in love with him every time I see him.
The Lord sent me Skye, He sent me Arwen, He sent me Thunder. And now, He sent me Magic. He sent me a trainer who completely understands, and, most of all, above and beyond all, He sent me to the most amazing parents who have ever existed.
God is great!
Today’s daily prompt was “What is a life well lived to you?”
A life well lived is a life lived on one’s knees.
A life well lived is a life lived in the knowledge that this isn’t really life at all.
A life well lived is a life lived in love.
A life well lived is a life sacrificed to the glory of the Person we love. Jesus Christ.
A life well lived is a life lost for His sake; for that is the only way that we will ever find life.
A life well lived is a life lived in hope, watching the clouds; a life well lived is a life forgotten, the life of the old lady praying in the nursing home, the life of the cameraman praying behind the lens for this new Christian program to work, the life of the intercessor on her worn and scarred knees, the abased, the forgotten, the humbled, the apparently worthless life of a person with the courage to say, “I must decrease so that He may increase.” For he who exalteth himself shall be abased, and he who humbleth himself shall be exalted.
A life well lived is a life that earns a better life that will continue, joyous and free, into eternity. Because we plod along half-asleep now in the brief test that will be over in seconds. Life belongs to the living, and the only Living One is called Jesus. He holds the life in His beautiful, bleeding Hands, and He is calling you.
Questions, comments, suggestions? How can we live in such a way that we can earn our true life through the grace of Christ Jesus? How can we lead others to life, salvation and redemption? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Some may sigh at what falls on deaf ears as boring old words. Even atheists know Psalm 23. It must be amongst the most famous pieces of literature in the world; “The Lord is my Shepherd” sounds familiar to people from virtually every culture. Overused, over-quoted, dull old Psalm 23.
Think so? Think again.
What faith. What love. What a splendid promise. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters…”
The Lord is MY Shepherd, here and now, then and forever. The Lord is my Good Shepherd, who giveth his life for the sheep. The Lord is my Shepherd, and the door to my fold; the Lord is my Shepherd, and the Love in my life.
The Lord my Shepherd is always leading me beside the still waters. He blesses me so abundantly, and me with my bad habits, my temper, my bitten nails and fears and worries and prejudices, deserves not one jot of it; but the Lord is my Shepherd, and I shall not want, no matter how awful I am, because He loves me.
The Lord my Shepherd blesses my loved ones right alongside me. He blessed Skye, His beloved mare, who has grown out her radiant summer coat. She’s in nice condition at the moment (she generally is); very unfit, of course, but not fat and not skinny, and she’s retaining at least some of her lovely neck muscles. I will probably be able to get back in her saddle around the beginning of December. I can’t wait.
The Lord my Shepherd sent the right sort of people to buy little Copper. I was worried about him, because he’s not much of a horse in terms of conformation, and it would be all too easy for some negligent person to saunter along, pay pittance for him and take him away to a lifetime of abuse. Thankfully, the Lord my Shepherd had other ideas; a family came along to buy him for their little daughter’s birthday. Copper is happy, the parents are happy, the little daughter is over the moon. He’s out of my hands now, and that still feels like a small tragedy to me; but the Lord my Shepherd is his Shepherd, too.
The Lord my Shepherd sent me the right horse at the right moment. Magic and I continue
to get along famously. Some time ago, the Mutterer helped me to jump him; this would only be the second time I’d ever jumped with Magic, and the steed himself could probably count the number of times he’d jumped with his hooves. However, Magic is a generous and bold soul, bless him, and despite the fact that I froze up several times and/or chickened out and just sat there waiting for the poor untrained four-year-old to act like a veteran, he was fabulous. I fell in love with him all over again (and I’d barely finished falling in love the first time). That jump! The inexpressible feeling of power, of lifting as he drives himself off the ground and tucks his front feet right up into his chest – I have never ridden a horse who jumps quite like Magic.
Talented and energetic or no, he remains kind and playful and somewhat goofy. He likes to tag after me (or pretty much anyone else) without having to be led; he loves to play. I spent half an hour or so running around with him his paddock a few weeks ago, making a perfect idiot of myself and that splendid horse. I’m short and very nervous, and Magic is a big, fiery, muscular four-year-old thoroughbred. Magic leapt and bucked and pranced and ran and never once did he come close to shoving into me or hurting me. The Lord my Shepherd has blessed me with the company of a lot of special horses, and Magic is one of them.
He’s improving under saddle a lot; last time I wrote I noted his difficulties with cantering to the right, adding that he tends to get frustrated and sometimes even bucks. This was probably mostly my fault, because on that big, rapid stride I tended to freeze and glue my hands to his neck, tipping my whole body forward and rendering my aids virtually nonexistent. I’ve been making a determined effort to sit up straight, keep my legs forward, bring my hands up and back and, in short, ride like I’ve actually been in the saddle once or twice instead of clinging on like a demented beginner with some trace of rabid chimpanzee in its pedigree. Unsurprisingly, this helped a lot; Magic is far more controllable in the canter, has slowed down nicely, doesn’t cut his corners much and doesn’t buck unless he’s been frightened by Falco, the scary Saddler who stood next to the arena one day and nearly drove me insane. Magic is also far better with his head and doesn’t flip it around as much as he used to.
The Lord my Shepherd gave me the gentlest young horse ever foaled;
Thunder. Thoroughly recovered from his operation, Thunder the Gelding is the same old Thunder he always was, with the trace of stroppiness gone and some flesh coming back to his ribs. I can confidently vouch that gelding a horse doesn’t change his real personality in the least, just makes him considerably kinder and easier to handle. Thun has progressed to long-lining with the lines attached to his bit and halter together. He is a little slow to stop but turns beautifully, and soon I’ll switch the lines to just his bit as he gets used to the different pressure. He still has his absentminded days, but he has yet to buck/shy/run away/rear whilst wearing the saddle and is learning to keep his head down very nicely while I put his bridle on. Plus, he’s becoming absolutely beautiful.
The Lord my Shepherd leads me through the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake, and I shall try not to complain when they get a little thorny. Siobhan is being a brat. Again. She is starting to re-earn her nickname of the Mustang, mostly by trying to buck off one of my students, for which she earned a thorough whack. The next week, it was rather windy and one heavy gust caught one side of the shelter roof and slammed it down on the support with a resounding crash; Siobhan gave a terrific leap into the air and her poor rider did what she usually does, shriek and stick on like Velcro. I had had enough. I transferred poor Danielle, who deserves a medal, to Arwen and got on Siobhan myself. Fireworks commenced, including a gigantic buck and a perfect courbette on her hindlegs (Siobhanny would have no trouble finding work as a Lipizzaner), but I stayed on and she eventually calmed. Today, I schooled her again and she was noticeably gentler and focused better than she has been doing the last few weeks. I have gradually cut her feed down to a quarter of what it was as she has been getting pretty fat, so that might be part of what made such a difference.
The Lord is my Shepherd, and though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. I wish I could always repeat this verse in the full knowledge that I live it out, but my nervousness issues still haven’t gone. I think it is getting a little better, though. Arwen has been foolish on outrides for a long time, so I was jittery about taking her out again today, despite the fact that Princess Evenstar’s shenanigans of late have been limited to some mild rearing and nervousness, all of which I rode out without too much trouble, thanks to the angel riding pillion (I swear, there’s no other reason why I manage to stick on). Today, though, I think the work is starting to pay off, and Jesus must have whispered something in Arwen’s ear, too, because she was a little cherub. There were francolins whirring out of the grass, guinea fowls running through the bushes, scary Jersey cows staring at her, stupid Holstein heifers running about, wind in the trees, the infamous Scary Tree which contains lions, and a lot of other things that Arwen would usually spook at, but not today. Today she sneered at the guinea fowls, thumbed her nose at the Jerseys and was unimpressed by the lions. In fact, with her big ears pricked and her strong legs swinging out briskly, I think Arwen was actually enjoying herself. I know that I was enjoying myself. I had my dear, gentle, patient little Arwen back and I am over the moon with her. Keep up the good work, sweet Arwie. We haven’t jumped for some time, but schooling and lungeing continues and the Mutterer is getting pretty impressed with the muscle Arwen is building, which I’m very pleased about.
The Lord is my Shepherd. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
My dear patient readers, bear with me a little longer; life, writing and the Internet have been a bit crazy over the past few weeks. I squeak into this challenge only just on time (thank goodness for time zone differences between the USA and Africa).
Just in case there are some non-horsy people out there who are craning their necks trying to figure out what this is, it’s my horse Skye’s ear, with her mane parting around it in a delicate silver triangle.