Created Unique

   Six odd, unique or exciting things about me? Well, it’s hard to remember that there are odd, unique or exciting things about me since I got this chemical imbalance in my head that gives me symptoms of depression. Upside, I finally learn to take pills. (Seriously. Who else has a pill-swallowing phobia? Don’t all shout at once). Downside, I blog less. If my humour is a bit off and I seem unnaturally cheerful for the next while, forgive me, readers. My head is just a bit more messed up than usual, but by clinging onto my God with everything I have… I’ll make it through this.

Let’s give it a shot, then. In no particular order, six random things about me:

Greyhound racing Français : Lévrier durant une...

I thought I looked something like this. Wishful, huh? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. When I was three years old, I was convinced that I was of the canine species. Totally true story. It lasted for years and years. I knew, of course, that most dogs do not come equipped with opposable thumbs and the ability to spend extended periods of time on their hindlegs (not that I spent very much time on my hindlegs). I was just in disguise, of course. I barked in public. I ran around on all fours so much that I wore out the knees of my pyjamas in mere weeks. Thankfully, I eventually got over it, but it was a rather strange phase, even for me.

Horse and Jockey Tumble

Ouch. I know how that feels (Photo credit: Paolo Camera)

2. I’ve fallen off horses more times than I have toes, and the horse I fell off the most I love the most. Yep, Skye only sends you flying if you’re really asking for it. In the first few years, I guess I really asked for it. She still spins out from under me every now and then just for the satisfaction of taking me down a few pegs, but I’ve gotten the hang of falling on my feet.

3. I am addicted to sunrises, sunsets, clouds, and stars. I don’t know the first thing about weather or constellations, but few things give me as much quiet pleasure, or remind me as powerfully of God, as the sky in all its moods and colours.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch ...

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. I really, really love three kinds of movies: children’s animation, sweeping medieval epics, and shamelessly sentimental tear-jerkers. I love Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, and Tangled. I adore The Chronicles of Narnia (all three). As for Soul Surfer, Letters to God and Marley & Me… I made a passable recreation of the Flood, albeit rather salty.

5. I think Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens are funnier than most contemporary writers. Have you read The Importance of Being Earnest? Addled brain or no, I found it hilarious.

6. I read too many blogs. Check out the blogroll. I seem to have some weird attraction to the “Follow” button. Yet I wouldn’t unfollow any if you paid me. And those are just the WordPress blog – you haven’t seen SprinklerBandits, I Will Jump Sweet Jumps or A Teen’s Dressage Dream yet.

There you go – just six of the many facets of my wacky personality. And you know what? There is nobody else in the whole entire world who would answer this prompt just like I would. There is no other Firn Hyde in the world. Not because of evolution or mere chance or reptiles coming out of the sea or any of that stuff.

I’m special because I was created. I was made by Hand. I was made to be Firn C. Hyde, a petite female with insanely long hair who loves horses and chocolate and hates Barbie and Toddlers and Tiaras. God made me, and He knew exactly what He was doing. And when I say that to the green-eyed, slightly pimpled face in the mirror every morning – “Jesus made you down to the last atom, by Hand; and He never makes any mistakes” – then I know it’s true.

It’s true for me, and it’s true for you. OK, so you pick your nose or bite your nails or have a

Creation of Adam, hands in detail

Creation of Adam, hands in detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

secret phobia of filing cabinets. Jesus made you because He wanted somebody just like you to exist. Sure, you’ve sinned and fallen short, but all you have to do is turn to Him to become the person He made you to be – the authentic, real, created you.

You’re a precious creation. Don’t forget that.

 

Oh, and aren’t you proud? I didn’t make poor imaginary Sir Flann answer the Daily Prompt this time. He’s been exhausted by the trauma of being blogged about and has retired to a quiet corner of my mind to polish his armour and hide from the media. It’s a hard life, being a hero.

From the Ground Up: Meet Flann Hildebrand

I’ll admit it, I’m cheating on the writing challenge yet again.

My life is chock full of astounding characters. Mom, usually so gentle, so patient, who goes off like a bomb if you so much as lay a finger on one of her beloved cows; Dad, who is your typical teddy-bear-wearing-armour guy and has a poetic streak that usually manifests itself in crude Afrikaans ditties; and guns and roses Rain who fires a 9mm handgun with as much poise and ease as she spins a triple pirouette ending in a gorgeous arabesque. Clif the Canadian who has a despairingly odd sense of humour and plays the violin insanely well. And who can forget the Horse Mutterer, who adores horses (but calls them all stupid) and has a very large soft spot for little girls (but calls them all annoying)?

Of course, Lord Jesus has the biggest character of them all; He’s got so much personality that it all overflows into three amazing People – the Father God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The 66 books of that glorious Bible still can’t capture every last facet of His amazing character; I don’t think anyone will know Him in full until that final lovely day when we go to spend eternity with Him.

But today, I’ll be introducing you to my protagonist, Sir Flannery Hildebrand. Regulars at CWT will have heard of him a few times before, here and here, but today I’d like to show some of the sketching process that I use to figure out my characters before I even start a novel.

The first manifestation of Sir Flann was as a grumpy fortysomething war veteran with one lame leg, a bad attitude and a troubled past. His disability landed him a job as a teacher, which he just knew he was going to mess up; he nearly did, too, but his powerful protective streak shone through and he and his students ended up rescuing the entire march of Bentley from evil monsters. (They usually end up rescuing something from evil monsters,  in my stories).

The original Flann’s character sketch was something like this:

Sir Flann has turned a soldier of fortune, but few will hire him; even though he is still unsurpassed as a mounted warrior, his wound rendered him hardly able to walk, let alone fight on foot. Eventually he is hired by Lord Logan of Bentley to teach four teenagers the art of knighthood. Sir Flann is cynical but committed; like most soldiers he has built himself a prickly armour and he needs shaking up to get out of his prickles.

That was almost eighteen months ago, in an entirely different novel that never really came to be and didn’t even have a title. I ditched it eventually; it chased its tail, never went anywhere, and, OK, let’s be honest, 16-year-olds were not made to write from the point of view of 40-year-olds.

But I had fallen in love with Flann Hildebrand. Even the early Flann was a sensitive man who hid his compassion under a mask of cynicism and snark, and something about his distinctive voice – the sarcasm and self-deprecation mixed with quiet honour, sensitivity and a dose of arrogance – caught my imagination. The story was doomed, but I had to keep writing Sir Flann.

I already had a vague idea of my story’s premise: troubled young knight plays bodyguard to gentle prince and they end up strengthening themselves, each other and their country to the point of winning the war that threatens its future. (He ended up being a lot more than a bodyguard, somewhat mundanely summing up his roles as follows: “Officially, I’m still the bodyguard, but I have a lot of hats: Master of Horses, Threader of Needles, Shouter-at of Annoying Rookies, Trainer of the Fyrd, Royal Advisor, Royal Shoulder to Cry Upon, Royal Kick-up-the-Pants Giver and Royal Pain being but a few of them.”) I had to turn my grim old knight into a young knight who had grown up too fast. This is the abridged version of the revised Flann’s character sketch:

knighted at 15

exceptionally talented with horse and sword

cynical

mature, rather too much so

has his doubts about religion, and tends to question, but is trying to be faithful

insensitive

unwilling to love

antisocial

close only to Tariq [his horse. You knew that was coming]

built a prickly armour around himself, even at his tender age

tries very hard not to care either about his charges or about the people and monsters he has to kill to protect them, but he really wants to care and keeps on building this armour in case he gets hurt, having experienced the hurt in the past

fiercely protective

deeply dutiful

terrified of snakes

loyal

detests ponies, reading, the colour pink, small children (especially babies), incompetent people and jesters. Secretly, he likes music, and is a surprisingly good nurse. He used to sing to Annie Belle [his sister] but stopped after her death, just mouthing the words of anthems and hymns. He’s very easily annoyed and snappish and can be arrogant on occasion.

Demetrius [the Prince] reminds him of Annie Belle, so he reflexively distances himself from him. Janessa [the Princess] annoys the brains out of him. He hates being called Flannery, claiming it’s a girl name, and tells everyone to call him either Flann or Hildebrand.

You can see that some aspects of Flann’s character are the same in both sketches. (And yes, for your information, “prickly armour” is a crutch of mine. Why’d you ask?) Basically, he’s a collection of bad habits and worse memories posing as a heartless cynic to hide his pain. All he needs is someone to come along with the Word of God and get Jesus to clean him up so that his courage, commitment, loyalty and tremendously protective nature can shine through.

Last of all, here is an excerpt from Another Sword, featuring the new Sir Flann at his most Flannesque. I still have a lot to clean up here, but I love this character and his voice (most of the time). Critiques are very welcome!

This is set in a banqueting hall at Kimbraley Castle somewhere near the end of the tale, when Sir Flann is pondering on whether he will leave Prince Demetrius and Princess Janessa (collectively referred to as “the royals”) at Kimbraley and go back to the capital, Ardara, to fight for the King, or stay and look after them.

A beautiful, arched, stained-glass window is set in the wall just there, looking out over the battlemented walls and into the dark forest towards Ardara. Will I be riding that way soon? With the moon lying like a glowing scimitar over the black hills and a few small stars opening their cold eyes, it looks like a sinister route to take. I think of King Carrigan alone in his office with his tired eyes and stupid white dog, and a hot, wet knot gathers in my throat. A dark spot appears in my vision and I blink hard. Ugh. I think I’m tearing up. How embarrassing. But, wait, that’s not just a spot. It’s a silhouette in the window; a sharp shape, blotting out the stars, the corner of a wing flicking across the moon –

“Down!” I yell, diving over the table. I plant one hand on Demetrius’s back and the other on Janessa’s neck and the three of us tumble to the floor. We roll against the wall below the window and I grab the royals and haul as much of their bodies under mine as I can. Something hits the window with a crash so loud it sounds like the air exploded, followed by the splintering of glass and sharp bites of pain as the fragments rain down on me.

The glass has barely had time to fall before I’m on my feet with my broadsword in my hands, searching for the attacker. I spot it gliding up near the roof; a gigantic eagle, bigger than I’ve ever seen before, talons longer than fingers, a great hooked beak like a curving knife.

From my post “Your Castle is on Fire”, you’ll have heard some of Flann’s sarcasm. Here, there’s little or none, because Flann is at his best whenever he needs to rescue someone. Luckily, I give the poor dude quite a lot of rescuing to do throughout the story. 😉

Your turn, readers. Writers, who’s your favourite character? Care to share a snippet? Readers, who’s the most well-written character you’ve read? I’m dying to hear from you.

Reincarnation?

For the Daily Prompt: Karma Chameleon.

One of the best writers of all time, who very sadly used his talent to champion atheism, is undoubtedly Sir Terry Pratchett. Master of satire and portraying a deeper meaning through comedy, and also great at worldbuilding (his novels are set on the Discworld, which travels through space balanced on the back of four elephants who are in turn standing on top of a giant turtle, and it’s completely believable when Pratchett writes it), his fluid approach to spirituality is his greatest downfall. He’s a literary genius; it’s a genuine pity that he never turned to using his amazing talent to glorify God, because he would have made God very proud.

Anyway, among his various theories on the afterlife, Pratchett’s fiction once included a guy who ended up being reincarnated. “I don’t believe in reincarnation!” he protested. Death (a seven-foot scythe-wielding skeleton mounted upon a horse named Binky) answered, “Reincarnation believes in you.”

At that point, about three-quarters of the way through Maskerade, Jesus (who had been viewing the whole thing with considerable distate) tapped me on the shoulder.

Reincarnation? Pull the other one. I don’t believe in it either, and not just because I think it’s dumb. I don’t believe in reincarnation because Jesus says it’s rubbish. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

I do believe in something else, though. Something much bigger. Much better. Something so real and so obvious, that fills the world so completely that sometimes one can’t even see it. “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the story written across the whole universe in letters too big for some of us to see,” C. S. Lewis said, and I know this story is true.

I know that there is a God. I know that His name is holy and just and pure and true. I know that He has a Son called Jesus Christ. I know that He is my Shepherd and Shield, my Saviour; my Rock and my Fortress; my God, in Whom I trust. Satan has been trying to tell me otherwise, but he can shake my faith a little (it coming from a tiny little heart like mine), he will never crush it. Because I’m not a single entity anymore; Jesus lives in me, and I in Him and us in God, and nothing crushes us.

I know that my God lives. I know that Jesus was killed by those whom He loved. I know

Crucifix

He did this for you and me(Photo credit: Bruce Guenter)

He died for His murderers, and He died for me, too, nailed to a cross. I know that His beauitful body, dripping blood, was lain in a sepulchre and stayed there for three days.

I also know that my Jesus rose again and walked among the disciples for some time. I know that He then ascended up into Heaven, His rightful Kingdom. I know that He sent a Holy Spirit to comfort us and that though He reigns in Heaven, He rules my heart, too.

I know that He has been working on something awesome for more than two thousand years, a special Kingdom where He and I will live together forever and ever and ever. I know that He will come on the clouds, on a shining white horse, and conquer the evil. I know that He will not let me be harmed. I know that He will catch me up in His powerful, gentle arms and take me home to live in His light forever.

I know that I’m living in His light right now. I know that I see through a glass darkly now, but I still love life, and I love Him. Soon I’ll see Him face to face. Now I love Him heart to heart, and I always will.

Better yet? I don’t just think this stuff is true. I don’t just know that this stuff is true. I believe it’s true, and real belief, real faith, is something far higher and far better than knowing.

I also know and believe that you can have this too. This spirit of love, of power and of a sound mind. This forgiveness. This eternal life. This can be yours too. And it’s quite simple really: All you have to do is say to Jesus, “I’m sorry and I believe in You and most of all, Lord, I love You,” and say it with every cell left in your heart, and He’ll forgive you and you’ll know Him. And it will be the most amazing thing you’ll ever do. He’ll flip your life on its head and you will laugh and you will cry (because no one ever said it would be easy) but one thing you won’t do is go to Hell, as long as you hang onto Him with all your might.

He did for me. He’ll do it for you. There will be fiery trials; I know, I’ve been there. There will be battles; I know, I’m fighting one. But there will always be Jesus Christ. You might not always know He’s there. You might not always remember. You might sometimes feel alone. But He won’t forsake you. He won’t fail you. He’s with you forever.

Forever is a very big word. But God is bigger than forever. If any of you out there are struggling to believe, or refusing to believe, for whatever reason, then know that God loves you and He’s real. He’s standing in front of you right now. You might not see Him, but He’s there anyway. He’s looking at you with great dark eyes full of stars and fire and love. He’s standing there with one hand outstretched; it’s a beautiful hand, slender-fingered, a puckered scar at its centre, a scar He bears for you.

Take it. I beg you. Take it. Live. Love. Laugh. Do it in the Name of the Lord.

It’s the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to you. You will lose nothing worth keeping. You will gain everything worth having.

This isn’t my promise. This is God’s promise. Oh, you don’t believe in God? Here’s the truth: God believes in you.

Česky: Kříže - symbol utrpení Ježíše Krista a ...

The cross is empty. The Lord is risen! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Winning

 I may have occasionally mentioned the name Joe Niemand here and there in my blog. For the majority of my readers, it will probably be a completely foreign name, most of my readers appearing to be native to everywhere from the USA to Ukraine, but with a surprisingly small amount of South Africans.

Joe Niemand is, in short, definitely my favourite and possibly South Africa’s favourite gospel singer. In long, this singer/songwriter has produced several albums including This Is War, Love, Revival: The Anthem of Joy, and his Afrikaans hit Ek Sal Nie Bang Wees Nie (I will not fear). He also wrote and starred in the jaw-dropping Afrikaans musical Ester, ran the record-breaking concert Night of Light and wrote songs for movies, most notably “A New Day” for Angus Buchan’s Faith Like Potatoes.

Cover of "Faith Like Potatoes: The Story ...

Cover via Amazon

Click the link, find out more, buy the albums. You won’t regret it. Mom purchased Ek Sal Nie Bang Wees Nie a year or two ago and I liked most of it, but adored the title song. Fear is my weak point, and one Satan’s been viciously exploiting of late; but I can talk back to the devil, because Jesus is with me and has already squashed him flatter than a beetle stuck to the sole of an elephant’s foot. “Ek Sal Nie Bang Wees Nie”, based on Psalm 91 and containing many of its words, has become a major weapon in my fight against fear.

I proofread a bit of my cousin’s book and in return she most kindly sent me Night of Light: The Best of Joe Niemand as a surprise gift. It was an awesome surprise and a splendid gift.

Man. I adore that CD. From more typical love songs like the spunky “All I Have” and the deep “Sy is die Een” (She’s the One) to such powerful, moving, desperately thought-provoking titles as “Jericho” (which frankly first scares my socks off and then makes me feel brave enough to go stand on a cliff somewhere and beat my chest like an anorexic gorilla), it’s awesome. It features some other amazing artists, too. And one of the songs is called “He Won”.

“He Won” is simple and complete with a message that drives home with the sheer simplicity of the lyrics. “Jesus faced the world for you/One man against it all/And He won”.

And it’s so true and it’s so awesome. Jesus is one Man Who walked up to the world and said, “You’re no match for me.” And it wasn’t. Pardon my French, but my Lord Jesus kicked Satan’s butt and the devil went wee-wee-wee all the way home to his fire and brimstone. Oh, in his jealousy and rage and death-throes, he still tries to take as many people with him as he can. He can still tempt and march around like a roaring lion. But his roar becomes a kitten’s squeak when faced with one soft word from the lips of my Lord.

Satan bugged me all day today. Here’s a news flash for some of the pretending-to-be-Christians out here: Satan’s real too. Oh yes, very much so, and he knows your weak spots. He sure knows mine, and he was throwing fiery darts at me all day. He blindsided me today and drove straight for my vulnerable point: fear.

There were times today when it felt like the ground had been yanked out from under my feet and I was floundering in an earthless world. And you know, the harder I struggled to get rid of the devil myself, the less I could struggle. But I finally remembered how you really deal with him, and I said without my voice but with every shred of my soul, “Satan, in the Name of Jesus, get out of here. I don’t need you. Go away, in the Name of my Lord Jesus Christ!”

A war shield

A war shield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know, that old serpent can’t stand up to God’s Name. He melted, and suddenly I felt awesome. It’s true: God has given us not a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. I felt His power fill me, and I felt absolutely great. He was right there with me, as He is now, as He always has been, as He always will be. My horses thought I had gone batty as it happened at feeding time and I was singing (extraordinarily badly) a duet with poor Joe Niemand. I’m glad he couldn’t possibly have heard me as I was just playing “Will You Still be Mine?” on my cellphone; if I heard someone sing my song that badly, I’d want to go deaf. But, oh, yes, Lord, yes, yes, YES! I’ll still be yours come what may.

Satan accomplished exactly the opposite of what he was trying to achieve. Because of the fight, I’ve come out the other side believing in God even more strongly. Why? Well, Satan acted exactly as Jesus told me he would in the words of the Bible. I rededicated myself to the Lord at youth group last night, and Satan knew that I was slipping out of his clutches, so he lied to me to get me back. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming; he did just what the Bible said he would. It was real and terrifying, but when Jesus came along and beat him up in mere seconds, that was much more real, and absolutely awesome.

My God won, you see. He took Satan on and He won. Satan’s still out to get me; he’s still trying to shake me off the rock of my faith. But Satan, you’re dead, dude. I believe in God, and I’ve taken up the shield of faith, wherewith I may quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. My Lord, my God, my Shepherd, my Shield, my love the Lord Jesus Christ, make him go away in Your name. He scares me, but You strengthen me much more than he scares me.

My Lord, my God! You won!

Oh, and you remember Engele as Gaste? That won, too. And it wasn’t the 800 words of mine that did it: it was the 50 Words of God that were in it. Two Bible verses and they turned the whole story on its head. All the glory is God’s; even if a bit of talent was involved, then I can’t take the glory for that either, because I didn’t give myself talent – God did.

My Lord! My God! My Good Shepherd! How I love You! Nothing will change that! Nothing! Ever!

Hallelujah!

It’s Final

Perhaps it’s true that some people do their best work under pressure. I was interested in entering an Afrikaans writing competition, but never seemed to get around to writing the short story – until January 28. The deadline for the competition? January 31. Yeah. Talk about brinkmanship.

With some help from Google Translate (which I use as a dictionary; my Afrikaans isn’t what it should be. Don’t worry, I didn’t write it in English and then just dump in Google Translate!) and a thorough edit from Mom, I eventually ended up with Engele as Gaste (Angels as Guests), a short story of about 850 words for which I had little esteem and no hope. But I had nothing to lose, did I? So I sent it off on January 31 and expected never to hear about it again.

Angel 013

Angel 013 (Photo credit: Juliett-Foxtrott)

Imagine my surprise when Mom got an email this morning stating that my three-day short story was one of the three finalists for the competition! You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Engele as Gaste is based on Hebrews 13:2 and Matthew 25:32-40. In English, Hebrews 13:2 reads: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

In the 1953 translation of the Afrikaans Bible, it reads: Vergeet die gasvryheid nie, want daardeur het sommige, sonder om dit te weet, engele as gaste geherberg.

I’ve always adored this verse and thought that it would make a lovely short story – fiction can sometimes illustrate truth so beautifully – and now I was out of ideas, so I went to the Bible. Between that beautiful verse and my recent fascination with Dickens (Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby were both great; A Tale of Two Cities moved me to tears) I managed to scrape together enough ideas for the story.

Let’s hope it goes further! I’m excited.

A Noise of Horses

For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. 2 Kings 5:7

Benjamin, our donkey

Benjamin, our donkey

If I were the captain of the Syrian host, I too would have fled when I heard the sound of the Lord’s army on the hills, the rumbling of the chariots, the snorting and stamping, the thundering of hooves, and the warlike eagle’s scream of a proud stallion. Splendid indeed is the mighty horse clothed with thunder, who mocketh at fear and is not affrighted. When Jesus rode up to Jerusalem, knowing that the time for His crucifixion was nigh, He rode a humble and patient little donkey, to show the world that even the Prince of the world can be strong in His humility.

He has shown His patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-sacrificial love, and part of that was done on the back of a dusty little donkey colt. But when He comes on that wonderful day to fetch His people and conquer His enemies, He will come on a shining white charger. He will ride a great white horse all made of flowing curves and straight lines like blades, that will snort steam and dance on its hindlegs in the joy of being alive. A thunder-clad horse, with lightning in its eyes, that leaps and dances in the boisterousness of its spirit.

On such a beast will my King come to claim His rightful throne and devastate His enemies with the bright two-edged sword that proceeds from His mouth. For when He comes, He will come with all power and might, and that is why He rides a horse and not a donkey. A donkey symbolises humility, pure and true; but a horse signifies power, strength, and courage.

You and me, girl

You and me, girl

I can only think that that wonderful white destrier will bear some resemblance to the little chestnut mare I love so dearly. She doesn’t always look like much, but Skye’s a mighty white steed on the inside, and she knows it.

Her fitness is getting to a level where she is even better able to prance about than before, and Skye is making the most of it. We’ve progressed from half an hour’s walking in early December to an hour’s outride with a mix of walking, trotting and cantering, probably about 10 or 20 minutes of trotting, 5 of cantering and the rest in walk. Well, I say cantering. I’d forgotten how good it feels to point her up our favourite hill, plant my hands in her mane and feel the world explode. She’s faster than she looks, but probably not as fast as she believes she is (she believes she’s faster than Secreteriat); but under the singing sky with the golden mare stretching up and onwards, leaping joyfully up banks and accelerating with every stride… I believe it too.

Arwen staring aghast at a 1m upright she popped over without any trouble. "You mean I actually JUMPED that?"

Arwen staring aghast at a 1m upright she popped over without any trouble. “You mean I actually JUMPED that?”

Arwen is also working on her fitness; despite her holiday, she’s probably just as fit as Skye right now. Jumping is the only thing that really gets to her and makes her tired. To be fair, we jump around 80-90cm for most of the session, going up to 1m at the end to practice the bigger heights, so it’s not like she’s trotting around a training show course.

Speaking of training show courses, we had better hurry up and get on one. I think her training’s at the stage where she could cope with it. At home, she would pop around the average track of training show height and standard without thinking twice. It’s the unfamiliar surroundings that I fear will get to her, Arwen being who she is.

The only thing that will really solve that, though, is going out to strange places and riding her there and working on it there, so I think it’s time to bite the bullet.

Thunder hasn’t had much work this week, I’m afraid. It’s just been a crazy week; I’m not

Not interested in abnormal human poking cameras in my face

Not interested in abnormal human poking cameras in my face

entirely sure why. He was only lunged once and properly ridden once, although yesterday I did take him for a five-minute wander. It was time for the horses’ fly masks to come off (otherwise the silly things destroy them in the night) and they were scattered around their paddock and I was feeling lazy, so Thun, who had just had his grooming, was called upon to give me a lift.

He’s a special little guy. I can just slap a bridle on him, hop on bareback (OK, so that’s not so easy, but he stands still and I’m getting there) and trot off, newly-backed two-year-old and all. He’s an immensely trustworthy sort. I still haven’t let anyone else ride him. I tell Rain that he’s still too green and might buck her off, but the truth? I like the idea of having this horse that no one else has ever ridden, just me. I’ll get over it. It’s cool for now, though. 🙂

Magic is now two-thirds mine. Only a few more payments to go! I can’t wait to bring him home. His paddock has been fences off, and the supports for his roof planted, but it still needs some work before he can come over here.

He needs a lot of shelter, being a thoroughbred. My native lot are spoilt with a corrugated iron roof, under which they hide when it’s rainy or epically hot, but these indigenous types and crossbreds don’t really need anything. Magic is a bit different. He’s getting a roof all to himself, with walls made of shadenetting or rubber 1.5m conveyor belting (still finalising that) to act as windbreaks.

Then there was the dilemma of feeding hay. Skye and the rest of her Horde are greedy gutses and scarf a big round hay bale in less than a week (perhaps more if they have very good grazing), but a big bale would just rot if put out for one horse. I hate haynets (mostly because of the effort required to fill them and the hay seeds, which go EVERYWHERE), so we came up with a sort of improvised hay feeder. We’ll pour a slab of concrete on the floor and put an old tractor tyre (with holes drilled in the bottom for water to run out) on top of it. Fork the hay into the tyre, problem solved. I hope. I prefer feeding off the ground anyway, it seems more natural.

Magic will also have a self-refilling water trough in his paddock, because lugging water

Showing off his free movement

Showing off his movement

around is another pet hate of mine. Much easier to have a ball valve and just check the thing for algae and leaks every day.

It’s fenced off with two-strand electric wire. I know electric tape is better for horses, and post-and-rail is really the best, but both are a bit out of my budget. The others live in a paddock with exactly the same fencing and it’s been far the safest – better than barbed or plain wire, that’s for sure. They don’t pull their manes out or destroy their fly masks on it, either.

Magic himself is doing splendidly; he’s still struggling to get his head around leading with the right foreleg, but all in good time. I simply can’t wait to bring him home and ride him every day. I’ve been riding him about twice a week, and he’s already improved, so I can’t imagine how nice he’ll be once I see him every day and ride him about four times a week. I definitely bond better with them when I do the feeding and cleaning up myself. The more consistent exercise will also bring out some muscles in his neck. It had better – the poor guy hardly has a neck at all and Skye with her proud crest might laugh at him.

I rode Sookie-Lynn on Thursday, too; the Mutterer gave us a lesson and we made some progress. Sookie is a really, really sweet newly-backed. But only when I have a dressage whip. Just carrying it seems to let her know that I mean business.

Her trot is improving; if I push her to a real extended trot, she goes in a proper rhythm, but in a working trot she still tends to flop along at her own beat and go 1… 2, 1-2 instead of 1-2-1-2. I originally thought she was lame, but it turns out that she’s just a bit young and lazy.

We also cantered for the first time. Sookie has never cantered under saddle before, and it

Pretty German princess

Pretty German princess

took a bit of kicking and waving the whip around before she finally got the idea and off she went. Eeep! She can move! She moves like she just has to put her feet down for the fun of it! She moves like a cloud! She moves like a rainstorm! When she moves. I just have to teach her to move whenever I ask her to and not just when the mood takes her. Anyway, she was suprisingly good; no bucking, no plunging off like a demented mustang with a pack of wolves on its trail (lots of youngsters do that), and she cantered about two laps without going back into a trot. Not bad at all. I need to remember to sit up straight and keep my hands up and shoulders back, and with a bit more work she should get a decent canter.

Maybe I should learn to speak German. She’s from Germany after all; perhaps she won’t listen because I’m asking in the wrong language. The only German I know is “Heil Hitler”, and somehow that doesn’t seem quite appropriate. 😉

She also has a really nice head position for her training level, bringing her nose in nicely whenever I ask her to, and a good soft mouth. She’ll make a capital horse with some more work. I’m looking forward to putting her over her first jump, too. She’s to be a showing horse and not a jumper, but I’d like to see how she feels over a jump. Warmbloods are supposed to be good at it.

Another upside: I think I’m finally learning to get on her without looking too stupid. Sookie is about 15.2-15.3hh, which is just an inch or two shorter than the top of my head. In short, she’s big, especially for me. To her credit, she is very patient and doesn’t protest at my clumsily clawing my way up her as if, in the words of Bree from The Horse and His Boy, she was a haystack.

I am blessed and delighted to live and work with these amazing animals. I think God had horses in mind when He made me, and I will try hard and study hard to have a career in horses so that I can spend my life with God’s most fearless beast. I want to serve God, and I think He’d like me to do it through horses, among other things. If I can spread God’s Word and serve my Lord the King and keep His commandments of love and have Him by my side, then that is all I should wish for. And blessed am I to do so in the midst of a noise of horses.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

This is all that Jesus asks of us. The King of the world and everything beyond the world, Who is huge and mighty and powerful, Who came to earth in the semblance of a man, Who was beaten and insulted at the hands of those so puny that He could have destroyed them all with a snap of His fingers, Whose bleeding body was nailed to a cross and left there to die by inches, Who suffered and strove, Who died and rose again… He loves us with a perfect love, and all that He asks in return is simply that we love, too.

Is that really so grievous a commandment? Is it really so hard to love Him and to love others? Is it such a great trial for the unbeliever to believe, for the hater to love, for the proud to adore?

My God, my Father, my Good Shepherd, my Shield, my Prince on a white horse, my Lord the King, my Jesus… pour Your love into me, that it might pour out into others. Let me love You will all my heart and all my strength and all my mind and all my spirit. Make me Yours, Sir. Let me love, Sir!

There are three of us in this picture, and our love will not be broken

There are three of us in this picture, and our love will not be broken. Photo by Dinki Hyde

My mom took this picture of Skye and I on Christmas Day. It was Jesus’s birthday and we were working and celebrating. This photo means love to me because it is said that there is no secret so close as that between a rider and a horse; and Skye and I know all about that secret. After eight years together, having started to grow up together, we’re pretty close.

And, of course, there is a third Person in this picture that no one can really see; but He’s there because He’s always there. He loves me or He would never have given me Skye, and He loves Skye because by the laws of nature she should have died of African Horse Sickness in 2011. It’s been almost two years now, and she is healthier and happier and more explosively spirited than ever.

Praise the Lord. I love You, Sir.