My old cellphone expired a few weeks ago, resulting in my now being the proud(ish) owner of a Samsung Galaxy Ace Advance. For everyone else to whom that is pure gibberish, it’s a fancy touch-screen one where you can go and “buy apps” (which, in English, eventually turned out to mean downloading [for free] little programs to put on your cellphone).
You probably knew that. I am probably a phenomenally retarded teenager when it comes to cellphones. But I do know one thing: The Bible Gateway app is the best thing since chain mail. Er, I mean sliced bread.
As you may have noticed, I am extremely fond of the Bible Gateway website (www.biblegateway.com), a searchable online Bible in about a trillion different verses. I have a proper ink-and-paper King James Bible (a slightly scarred one, it is true; Bibles were apparently not designed to be taken camping), which I study in the mornings and guiltily dog-ear, but my knowledge of its hallowed pages is still somewhat deplorable. Hence, the searchable part is pretty cool.
The recently-released app is available for free on Google Play Store, and man, do I love it! My favourite thing about it? The audio Bible. The dramatized KJV is amazing. I’ve only listened to a few chapters – data not allowing for tremendous profligacy – but to hear each and every person in the Bible with their own voice, from Goliath’s rumbling ominousness to Jesus’s serene tone, was amazing. The music, the sound effects – Philistines baying for blood, Jews chattering in the synagogue – if the narrators and vocal actors just had British accents, it would be more than perfect. And even the quiet American accents work just fine for me.
John 11, with Mary and Martha’s high voices breaking up the dialogue, was particularly powerful. Well, more powerful than normal. John 11 has become one of my favourite chapters, mostly for just two verses:
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
This. This is it. This is life. This is the big secret that you spend your life looking for, and it lives and it breathes and it loves and it is a He and His name is Jesus Christ.
And what a splendid thing it is to live and believe in Him!
Living and believing in Him, in my case, has quite a lot of horses in it. God made horses and He made me, and I’m pretty sure He had the link in mind long before He set my heart to beating.
These amazing animals are just that – animals. Many of today’s equestrians seem ready to fling themselves at horses’ feet and praise their wonders. Horses aren’t people and they aren’t God; horses are horses, and that’s all they were made to be. And isn’t a horse enough without any imagined powers? Isn’t it enough to see that half-ton of flesh and blood lift into the air like a bursting flame, to rise and sing above the wavering grass as if its powerful weight was no heavier than a hawk? Isn’t it enough to look into dark brown eyes and see nothing mystical, nothing beyond the courage and character of an honest beast?
Horses are horses, but never just horses; for nothing God made is just a thing. He never made anything badly, and before you praise the horse, think for a moment of the One who made him; think for a moment of Job 39, and before you praise the horse, ask yourself, “Did I give the horse his strength? Did I clothe his neck with thunder?”
Nope, you didn’t. God did. And He’s all the more amazing for it.
My particular golden, not affrighted, thunder-clad mare quite lived up to her tribute in Job 39:19-25 recently; she could not stand still when the trumpet sounded, or, I may add, at any time at all. Standing still wasn’t on her agenda; nor was going any slower than was absolutely necessary, and going slow is never very necessary for Skye.
I could control her, by the skin of my teeth, with the snaffle on outrides – in the arena she’s just fine – but I had to get pretty rough with my hands. I don’t like being mean with my hands; Skye didn’t give the wrong end of a rat for how mean I was being as long as I let her run (Skye not being the thin-skinned type). However, after much mental deliberation, I decided that harsh hands with a soft bit are worse than soft hands with a harsh bit, and duly put the Pelham back on. I did put the reins through the top ring and set the curb chain at its loosest, though, so it was as mild as a ported Pelham can get.
It worked like a charm. I could keep my hands quiet and I had my dressage horse back, the one with the neck that bends like a bow of burning gold and the barely-controlled power crackling through from legs to poll like lightning. Oh, she was still Skye, still my great plunging charger who never says never and is game for anything. All the power and spirit is still there; the joie de vivre that’s part of her, the flame that burns high. But this time I didn’t have to cling on for dear life any more than strictly necessary, she wasn’t hiding behind her bit or playing tug-of-war with me, and we came to a compromise.
The fact still remains that I would much rather cling desperately to a happy, healthy, exploding Skye than sit easily on a droopy, sad one. There’s no malice in her; just a bursting exuberance for the very joy of life. The fact that it never scares me only means that this is a truly special horse.
Her son is also a truly special horse, only in a completely different way. Not for Thunder the leaping, the prancing, the snorting, the explosive happiness. He’s a quiet soul, a willing guy, laid-back and never much irritated or bothered or excited by anything. Some may be bored by this (not least the Horse Mutterer), but I deal with enough loony horses to be vastly relieved to handle an exceptionally quiet and gentle one.
Bear in mind that I speak of a two-year-old gelding who’s been under saddle for about a month, so baby Thun is by no means a solid old hack who never puts a toe out of line. He’s got the temperament, but not the training. He’s got some way to go before we get to Skye’s level. That said, he’s being a sweet pie.
He rides like a total baby; he’s still figuring out what whoa, go and turn mean, his paces are inconsistent, and he’s not fully in control of his giant gawky limbs. However, he’s a willing little guy once he knows what you want. His worst problem is going from trot to canter. Once he’s in the canter, naturally, he canters like a baby too; much too fast, on the wrong leg and off balance. But so far he has bucked once under saddle and that was probably my fault; I even aimed him at a 20cm jump from a trot just to see what he would do. He looked at it once and hopped over with no complaint.
I rode him pretty hard three days in a row last week, and by the third day he was really droopy and lazy. I’ll just have to be careful not to tire him out too much as he is so young.
It’s been three weeks since Arwen’s last AHS vaccine, so I have the all clear to work her poor fat butt off again. And it is quite a fat one, despite my efforts. Despite having her concentrate halved and her supplementary maize cut out, Arwie is a fat round grey pony again.
I can’t complain too much, though. She kept her pretty topline and elegant neck, as well as most of the muscling on her forearms and hindquarters. There is a marked bulge around her midriff that wasn’t there before. However, her ribs are still there and she doesn’t have that bloated, flabby look of a truly obese horse, so I think a few weeks’ work will fix her.
Thankfully, she doesn’t seem rusty under saddle. Arwen walks and canters really, really well most of the time. She’s flexing nicely at the poll now, bending her neck and bringing her nose in, as well as using her hindquarters and stepping over her tracks by two or even three hoofprints when I get her into a really decent walk. In canter, she’s lovely – slow, balanced, rhythmic, usually on the correct leg, and even starting to bring her little head in a bit.
Her trot stinks. She drags her legs along like a real old daisy-cutter. She can’t really be bothered to pick up her knees or flick out her toes, unless she’s given a generous dose of spur, in which case she arches her neck, picks up her belly, sticks out her legs and gives me goosebumps for about three steps before going back to her riding-school-pony pace.
Fixable. It’s all fixable. Now that Arwen has grown up a little, grown some muscles and learnt some schooling, she’s starting to show her true colours. And I’m pleasantly surprised. This is actually a really cool little horse. Her paces are nice, her looks are stunning – that pretty diamond-shaped star, wavy tail and unique colour are eye-catching – she has a sweet (if scatterbrained) temper, and apart from her dreadful withers and huge ears, I’m hard put to fault her conformation. If she was two hands bigger and had a bit more energy…
She doesn’t. But she’s still pretty cool: a six-year-old 14.1h pony who will tackle a 1m spread with an inexperienced rider like me, no qualms, no fuss, no real get-up-and-go attitude, just steady and sensible. If Arwen can be persuaded to get over her paranoia of new places, I think she’ll make a really steady jumper at around 80-90cm.
Amazing what a bit of work and a few years’ growth can do, huh? Arwen sure has changed over the past four years!
As you may recall, last week I wrote that Magic had had a spooky day and jumped at everything, from a wild horse trying to break down the crush (chute) to a bag of cement lying beside the arena. This week, I was most delighted to get on him and find that my dear, sweet, patient angel Magic was back. Gone the spooking and snorting. Back Magic, in a frame of mind I was much better able to work with and enjoy.
We reached a little milestone this week. Steady work has sorted much of Magic’s head-tossing and stargazing, so his main problem became the fact that he never, ever led with the right foreleg at the canter. Cantering to the right was something of a nightmare around even gradual curves. Magic felt unbalanced; he tried to fix it the way most youngsters do, by rushing off, leaning on my hands and getting himself into quite a mess.
I’d taught him to go from halt to walk leading with whichever foreleg I asked for, so today, finding him in such a lovely mood, I tried to ask for a canter with the right foreleg for the first time. I took the precaution of halting him first and asking him to walk on with the right leg, just to remind him. Then I took him into a nice, strong, forward trot, sat down (not an easy task on a big bouncy thoroughbred, I can tell you), gave his right shoulder a poke with my toe and ordered him to canter on.
Wonder of wonders! He struck out with his right foreleg and off we went. Most messily off, as I sincerely doubt his hind end was cantering in sync with his front end, but he was much quieter around the corners, much calmer, and definitely on the right foreleg. Took him back to a trot and asked him again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke: off we went again, on the right foreleg. We ended the session on that very high note with Magic pooped and me as proud as Punch (whoever Punch is).
Apart from my beloved crew of four (well, I’m counting Magic, but he’s only half mine), I’m still riding some of Ruach Stud‘s horses and, of course, my own family’s crazy youngsters. Siobhan, at the moment, winning the award for the craziest.
She’s actually being quite nice under saddle, for Siobhan. With me, she’s progressed well in her training; straightness and willingness in canter has improved vastly, she’s responsive, and she doesn’t rush around her least favourite corner as much anymore. We’ve even done a spot of jumping and she’s much improved. Over 20cm poles she’s dead quiet, so I took it up to about 40-50cm and approached at a trot with lots and lots of encouragement (like her mom, Siobhan benefits from a good kick just before the jump, to let her know you’re committed, although I sure wouldn’t jump for anyone who gave me a good kick first. Rum things, horses). To my surprise and delight, she took off beautifully, cleared it easily and trotted happily away. To my surprise and disgust, she then fell. I have no idea what happened. One minute we were trotting along with me patting her and saying, “Oh, what a good girl you are, mustang”; the next we were both on the ground and I was saying, “What just happened?”
I still don’t know, but the ground where we landed had some quite impressive marks in it. Siobhan skinned her nose and the back of my knee turned a strange shade of yellow, but otherwise no harm was done. I jumped back on, lowered the jump a smidgen and popped her over that just for our confidence, and then called it a day.
Today Rain did most of the riding and lunged the poor pony’s butt off at my request; I finally took the plunge and rode Siobhan out, in company with Rain and Skye. I don’t like taking youngsters out. I really don’t. It’s a phobia of mine. We only went out for about ten minutes and a ridiculously short distance away from her paddock, but it was about as much as my stupid nerves could bear. I’m a CHRISTIAN, nerves!! I don’t have anything to be afraid of!! WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?!
Grammar always deserts you at the worst possible moment.
Anyway, Siobhan was actually good; she was a bit nervous, but we only had one moment where I was sure we were all going to die, and that was crossing a muddy ditch. Siobhan didn’t want to get her toes wet and took a flying leap; I had a bit of a moment (and a bit of a scream) but kept my stirrups and my wits and was more embarrassed than scared afterwards. (Rain is not going to let me hear the end of it, I tell you).
Achilles, too, has been doing well; he still kicks up his heels a bit at the canter, but with the aid of a crop (a girly pink one – Rain’s; the Disasters ate mine), I’m handling it okay, for me. He only had one or two real bucks last time and settled down to two or three buck-less laps of the little ring last week.
Then there’s the princess, Sookie Lynn von Samaii, the warmblood owned by Ruach Stud. Although of late she was more Spooky than Sookie, she’s been doing well. Her laziness is clearing up well, although she trots with a very odd rhythm, mostly because she’s three years old and still pretty lazy, according to the Horse Mutterer. With some encouragement, the rhythm improves after a while, so it’s something we’ll just have to keep chipping away at it.
I’m getting quite fond of Sookie; she’s big and young and a bit clueless, to be sure, but she looks like a queen and moves like a princess. She’s an even-tempered youngster, as well, and rides better than a lot of three-year-olds; although she has yet to canter under saddle. Today she had a good day and with a bit of help from the dressage whip I got her to extend a bit and show off her movement, and… squee! that horse can move! Give us some time and training, and I’ll bet Sookie’s going to make something spectacular.
I love her colour, too. Skewbald with that striking blue eye. (Yeah, I know, I just said “skewbald”. I’m still trying to get my head around all the bay tobiano stuff).
With that, I have to wrap it all up. I’m nodding over my keyboard, and there’s more horses and more living and believing to do tomorrow.
Thanks to my Lord Jesus, I’ll never have to stop living and believing.
Thank You, Sir!