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.

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