Everyone is wonderful some of the time. Few people are delightful all the time. Authentic character is expressed in hard times, not days of leisure. It’s easy to be kind and agreeable when circumstances are kind and agreeable.
Apply the thumb screws and our true nature is revealed. Tribulation tears away the shroud of pretense.
Gray horses played pivotal roles in my education. You can read about my Amazing Grays, Bo and Swizzle, in my books. Today I’m introducing you to my first gray horse, a Colorado Ranger-bred Appaloosa named Prince Asaad.
The most profitable side of my horse business in the early days was buying a horse with potential at a discount, maximizing it, then reselling at a premium. Prince was a backyard horse. Literally. He lived in someone’s back yard and needed a new home.
The seller had his registration papers, but the last five owners never transferred them. Scraps of papers served as bills of sale. His last owner traded him for a parrot. When horses change hands frequently, there’s usually a reason.
Prince was in good shape. Fed well with a long silky mane and tail. I chatted with him a few minutes, then saddled and mounted.
Prince didn’t take one step forward the entire time I was on his back. He yielded his head. Turned right and left. Backed up. But would not step forward.
I asked. Then asked with more conviction. Banged my legs. Slapped his shoulder with the end of the reins. Even tapped him with my spurs. He’d move; just not forward.
Seeing the Beauty Beyond the Surface
Prince came home with me. Why did I buy him?
His character. Prince was a prince of a horse. One in a million. Sitting on his back as a complete stranger, I asked him for something he wasn’t comfortable doing. And I even asked with emphasis. Prince never tightened. Never objected. Never sulled up. Never argued. Never said a bad word.
If he could speak he’d say, “I’m not secure enough to move forward, but I won’t hold it against you for asking.”
In tribulation he was kind. Gentle. Yielding. But unable to climb the mountain of insecurity on his own. I could help him with his insecurity. Skills are learned. Character is gift from God.
God blessed me with many memorable horse moments. One of them is the first time Prince walked all the way around my arena forwards. Woo hoo! His confidence came from the rider. Whatever I asked, he tried to deliver.
Prince rode like a Mercedes. Smooth. If set up correctly, he could single-foot. Comfortable. Safe. Always agreeable and willing. He was the first horse my husband trusted.
We were fortunate to locate Prince’s last registered owner and get a signed transfer. Prince was officially ours.
Willing to Step Out in Faith
A couple of years later I needed reining points on a different horse. Not knowing how many entries would show up, I wanted an insurance policy. Another horse to put in the class. As an aged horse, Prince had to be bridled to compete and I’d only ridden him in a hackamore or snaffle.
Within two weeks he learned to neck rein and ride a reasonable reining pattern. Circles. Slides. Roll backs and turn arounds. The foundation we’d built made those maneuvers possible. Prince could do them, just not at full speed.
My biggest concern was lead changes. I didn’t want to fill a class with a horse unable to perform. There had to be something for the judge to score. I didn’t want a zero or DQ (disqualification.) I wanted Prince to deserve the judge’s attention.
Prince figured it out. He hauled to his first (and last) show like a pro. Calm. Smooth. Kind. Gentle. Yielding.
Prince’s character held the day. The definition of a reining horse is one “willingly guided.” Prince was that, and more. No pull. No resistance. Honest. Dedicated. And always willing to try. Faith in me gave Prince the courage to do what he’d never done before.
Servant Hearts Find Ways to Serve
The business of horses is tough. I needed to get paid for training and showing horses. They either belonged to clients or represented our breeding program. As my training commitments grew, I no longer had time or a job for Prince.
I trusted one local trainer who specialized in youth and beginning adults. I asked her to bring over a couple of her students to ride Prince. Once the girls got off they insisted she buy him on the spot. He was gentle. Willing. With luxury suspension.
Prince had a servant’s heart. He finished out his career as a beginner lesson horse, but still needed guidance from his rider. The trainer told me later, “When a kid is on him and he doesn’t know what to do, he marches in place. Never breaks rhythm, but doesn’t go forward. He stays steady and true until told to do something else.”
Horses like Prince are priceless for who they are. For their character.
Most horses can be soft and cuddly when their world is perfectly arranged. The same is true for most people. It is true for most Christians.
True character is revealed when the going gets tough. When it’s painful. When it’s disagreeable.
Everyone Needs Guidance – How Many are Willing?
I never require a horse to do something it isn’t able to do. Sometimes I ask the question, “What happens if…?” The answer tells me what the horse is able or willing to do. That information leads me to educate or motivate. My goal for horses is the gift of obedience for no other reason than because I ask.
God may ask you to do something hard to see what you do. He isn’t interested in the result as much as your response. Will you try? Or sull up? Even if you can’t lift the burden, do you try without kicking, bucking, or arguing with Him?
The story of Abraham and Isaac is one of obedience, yielding, and willingness. God didn’t let Abraham kill his son, He wanted to know if he would.
God NEVER requires us to do something without first equipping us to do it. Obedience is the gift we offer. Like reining horses – like Prince – God values those who are willingly guided. Who remain soft, obedient, willing, and gracious under pressure.
When the going got tough, Prince turned to me for guidance.
When the going gets tough for us, we turn to Jesus. The gift of the Holy Spirit is there 24/7/365. God doesn’t take coffee breaks. We are never left alone.
God is ever faithful. Look around your church and circle of friends. Do you see the character of Christ on display? Horses like Prince are rare. People like Prince even more so.
Photos of Prince at my Arizona training facility. Delightfully guided by my niece.