Recently I have been thinking about horses, and why they mean so much to me. This stemmed from a quiz Lauren gave me and a comment that my mom made. In the quiz, I was asked to state my favorite animal and why it was my favorite. I said a horse because “they are magnificent, beautiful, powerful, gentle, and they make me, me. My love of horses seems to have been ingrained into me on the day I was born; Katie will love horses. And most importantly, I am me when I ride”. The comment my mom made came from a conversation we were having in which she mentioned that people who are confident tend to stand up straight and not bite their nails. To which I laughingly replied that I am confident, I just slouch out of habit and the same goes with my nails. (I have since stopped biting my nails! Yay!). I later remembered a comment my dad made while we were riding the horses once. He was marveling over my good posture and asked why I couldn’t stand up as straight as I sit when I ride. So I began to mull all this over and suddenly everything just clicked into place. It may seem a small, trivial thing to you, but I would like to share.
When I ride, I am my most confident. More so even than when I am fabulously made over by my wonderful sister. When I ride I feel like I can do anything. I feel beautiful. I feel proud. I feel secure. I feel fearless. I feel unbelievably happy and at peace with everything. There is nothing I love more than flying across the ground on the back of a horse, my heart beating in perfect time to the drumming of the horses’ hooves on the ground. I have a connection with these amazing creatures that I know is God given. In fact, I have had some of my most raw, meaningful conversations with the Lord on the back of my horse Scout. I can very easily parallel my relationship with God to a rider’s relationship with a horse. It is a relationship built on trust first and foremost. This became apparent to me once when I was riding with my dad and we were going down a steep, muddy bank. The slope of the hill broke off a couple feet from the bottom and at the bottom there was a stream. As we headed down, I felt Scout’s hooves slip and slide in the mud as we plunged down the hill. I had a moment of fear but it was replaced almost instantly in the trust that Scout would get us down this hill all in one piece. So I leaned back in my saddle, gave him his head, and let him do his thing. And sure enough, a slide and a hop down later we were in the creek. I found myself knowing I need to trust God as easily as I trusted Scout in that situation. It was startlingly clear to me then for some reason. God has used these animals to teach me many things about him and the way he loves us, and I do not doubt that the horse is God’s favorite animal. Just read Job 39:19 if you don’t believe me.
But I digress. When I get on a horse, I feel my most confident. I sit up straighter and I feel a sense of rightness when I settle onto a saddle or the bare back of a horse. I feel like myself; I have an identity when I ride. I know who I am and I like who I am when I ride. I am confident in my decisions I make while I’m riding and I have had to make some very quick decisions. My confidence on a horse must be a visible thing because whenever there was a “problem horse” at Pine Cove, the camp I worked at for a summer, that horse was entrusted to me. My barn manager told me that she saw horses respond to me when they refused to listen to other capable wranglers. That, naturally, made me feel good and reiterated to me my belief that I am meant to have horses in my life.
One of my favorite horses at Pine Cove was a tall buckskin gelding named Watson. He had a breathing problem and was very skittish, but when I rode him I felt like my confidence transcended to him because he became a more confident horse. Scary balls flying at him didn’t faze him and he seemed to want to please me. My other favorite was a short chestnut named Hans. He was a punk and I instantly loved him. I rode him on every trail ride, and my goal was to make him a horse that campers could ride. He was a blast, and a few short weeks later he was transferred to another camp to be used as a camper horse. I was so sad to see him go, but I was also proud of the work we had done.
Me and Watson.
My buddy Hans
I think that feeling beautiful also comes from feeling confident. When I ride, I sit upon this extraordinary, magnificent, beautiful, powerful animal. When I ask the horse to canter and we move out together, I can feel the animals’ muscles bunching and releasing, propelling us forward. When I laugh or say something to the horse, the ears flick back, always listening. When I feel the horse responding to my body signals, I feel in control. When the horses’ mane streams out behind its’ neck, stinging my hands and face, I can only imagine that my hair is doing the same, and how can that not be beautiful?
I remember many times at camp when I would have a clunky helmet on my head, dirt smeared across my arms and cheeks, hair matted, and sweat just rolling down my body, but I never felt self conscious about how I looked. I felt proud to know that I was able to ride this horse in a rodeo and make her do the suicide run to close out the show, that I could whip around three barrels on her while the crowd cheered us on, that I could proudly carry the American flag on him while we cantered around to someone singing The Star Spangled Banner. I felt proud. I felt cool. I felt confident. I felt radiant despite, or maybe because of the sweat.
Me and my girl Shiloh doing the suicide run.
Running the barrels with Starla
Carrying the flag on Desperado
When I ride, I can almost feel my worries and cares melt away. It’s totally unexplainable except to say that it is a gift from God. I talk about things that bother me or worry me with the Lord when I ride, but I don’t dwell on the things that stress me out when I am on two legs. It’s like I am transported to this whole other place where troubles and anxiety aren’t allowed. I can’t not be happy when I ride. And this is true even when I am riding a horse who is misbehaving. Instead of feeling frustrated or anxious or worried, I feel my determination settle down on me and I am determined to turn any situation into a positive experience for both me and the horse. And when the horse finally listens to me or responds to me, like I have said before, I feel confident.
My darling Jem
I know that because of how horses make me feel, I will always have them in my life. They are my God given drug. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They are wonderful. They are beautiful. They are kind. They are trusting. They teach me things about myself. They break my heart. They bring me joy. They allow for me to be me. They help me. They comfort me. They are used by the Lord to draw me closer to Him.
And that is why I ride.