Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Let me admit it, I’m a total sucker for those cute self-portraits of a person and their horse. While I do have a cool selfie of Skye and I, this week’s photo is a random shot of me with my favourite stallion in the whole entire world. Juistzoo Reed does not belong to me; he is a stud stallion at Ruach Pinto Sport Horses, and his pony-sized palomino pinto frame is dwarfed by the mighty bulks of the other stallions, but he has a gentle spirit and a kind heart. Perhaps it’s because I root for underdogs, perhaps it’s because there’s a beauty in Reed that goes deeper than his skin, or perhaps it’s just because he is so freaking adorable. But he remains unashamedly my favourite.

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On a more serious note, while a self-portrait taken with a phone takes just a moment to snap, the self-portrait you carry around inside yourself takes years to paint in shades of memory. Walking the tightrope between pride and self-hatred is not an easy task, and issues related to self-esteem are rampant in today’s world. So readers, what do you believe is the ideal healthy self-portrait or self-perception? And how does your own self-perception measure up to it?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Daniel 6:10

Almost every morning at about 6:30, just after breakfast and before feeding horses, I go into my room, close the door and have my God time. It’s only ten minutes, but I treasure those precious ten minutes spent reading God’s Word, talking to Him and worshipping Him. All through the day I’ll pray short, silent prayers, of thanksgiving or awe, worship, intercession, or pleading; but this prayer is my check-in with God before I start the day.

Like Daniel, I have my own little praying place – the window in the east wall of my bedroom, which looks out onto the little bluegum forest I call the Shuddering Woods. At my prayer time, the sun is just rising with dazzling brilliance in summer, or perhaps flushing the sky with pink in winter. I kneel before my God underneath the little wooden cross stuck on the glass, and I feel the warmth of His created sun on my face. And I know that not even the sun is bigger, warmer, stronger, or more everlasting than His wonderful love.

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On a more playful note, Blizzard also loves windows. She’s become quite skilled at using them as a vantage point!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy

Animals know all about joy. They have no reservations in feeling it or in expressing it; their wondrous ability to live in the moment allows them to feel their joy in its fullest, right now. And they all have some way or another of expressing it.

For horses, their best defence mechanism becomes their greatest joy. Horses were born to run and carefully designed for speed and stamina. Their superb muscular strength, long legs, and superior respiratory and cardiac systems make them unique among animals for combining strength, speed and stamina in one glorious package.

And they know it. Make a horse happy, and he’ll express it in exuberant bounds, galloping across his paddock, leaping up into the air with all four legs, rearing with dizzying elegance, or bucking spectacularly just for the sheer wild fun of it.

Horses were made to be horses. They might not know the Lord God Who made them, but they know they were made. For them, that’s enough.

Siobhan displays her joy at moving to a new paddock

Siobhan displays her joy at moving to a new paddock

In Which Ponies Run

The horses had a ball the other day when I moved them into different paddocks, facilitating better use of grazing for Skye (who needs to eat grass instead of hay because of one of her innumerable allergies). A change of paddocks is always guaranteed to make them have some fun, and without further ado, here are some random happy pony pictures. Glory be to the God Who made them and put the joy of His creation in them; they might not know Who made them, but when I see them leap effortlessly into the air, lightly as a sunbeam despite their sweating half-ton bulk, and dance across the turf, I have to believe that they know they were made.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

No points awarded here for my photography skills, but this theme touches a cord in me right now.

See, last Saturday the Mutterer very kindly brought his annoying little tagalong student, viz., myself, with him to watch the President’s Cup showjumping. I sat and stared at the amazing horses and riders all day, coming home looking like a drunk with a face sun-fried to deep crimson and eyes bloodshot from staring longingly at the giant jumps and equally giant horses that sailed effortlessly over them.

I loved the Junior President’s Cup because I would have loved, loved to be one of those teens riding so brilliantly over gigantic fences on awesome horses. The Pony Rider President’s Cup  was a strange mix of inspiring and adorable. Those little ponies are firecrackers! Only about fourteen hands high, they flung themselves over enormous jumps and were twice as fiery as some of the horses.

But my favourite class had to be the real President’s Cup, the last of five rounds. 1.40m high, the jumps looked huge, even compared to the mighty warmbloods that strutted their stuff there. I got to see some of the top South African showjumpers in action – Anne-Marie Esslinger on elegant Alessio, Lorette Knowles-Taylor on Nissan Udokes, this year’s winner Jeanme Engela on a beautiful mare called Cloof Wines Chanel, and the breathtaking white stallion Capital Don Cumarco with his rider Nicole Horwood.

And my old hero Barry Taylor on a brave grey horse called Nissan Animus. I held my breath when they cantered into the arena. I was probably eight or nine years old when I picked up a Horse Quarterly with a picture of a huge bay horse sailing over a mighty jump with his rider on the front. The rider was Barry Taylor, and that was the moment that I decided to be a showjumper.

Most small girls at some stage in their lives decide to be showjumpers but I think in my case it’s incurable. I’m addicted to that floating moment in midair, that amazing feeling when half a ton of horseflesh rises into the air as weightless as sunlight, when for just a moment you realise how wonderful it is to live in a world where a 50kg human and a 500kg horse can be one. And fly.

I spent Monday afternoon riding like an idiot and getting refusal after refusal after refusal from Arwen. Thereafter I crashed poor Magic into a jump and got refusal after refusal from him as well, and I deserved it.

But yesterday I sat on a 16.2hh stallion and we went over an 80cm jump (which looked WAY bigger from where I was sitting) and the world was perfect. And Magic and I jumped a tiny cross today and he pretended he was at the President’s Cup and jumped it accordingly and the world was perfect. Yeah, I’m gonna bite the dust pretty often and deserve it. I’m gonna have falls and refusals and rails down and run-outs and it’s gonna be a rollercoaster ride, but there’s only one direction I’m aiming in. Up.

That’s where my Lord Jesus is, after all. He’s the one Who made a world where humans can ride and horses can fly. He’s the one Who listened when I pointed that stallion at the jump and begged silently “Oh Lord, help me!” He’s the one Who boots me off the edge of the cliff so that I can learn how to fly. Because of Him, no matter what, at the end of it all, there’s only one way I’m going, too…

Up.

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Barry Taylor on Nissan Animus

OK, so I am riding like an ape in this picture, but I guess we'll get there someday...