Pretty alone doesn’t ride. Pretty isn’t a reliable indicator of ability, heart, character, or trainability. Neither is a great hip, but it’s a better bet than an attractive head if you want to do any of the funner things with a horse. Gallop across meadows. Chase cows. Climb mountains. Run fast and shoot balloons. Enjoy play days or competitions.

As a horse show judge I valued great hips more than pretty heads. Conformation classes are breeding classes. The winner should be the best example of breed excellence. Legs should be straight, bodies balanced, angles suitable for performance, movement smooth and efficient, with overall good looks.

If two horses tied in overall score, I placed the one with the best caboose over the one with the gorgeous face. The hindquarters is the engine that moves the train. Wins the race. Supports quick turns and powers over fences. A pretty face is just that. Pretty. Surprisingly enough, bridles and bits work equally well on both cute and common heads.

“Do you love me because I’m beautiful, or am I beautiful because you love me?” – Oscar Hammerstein II

When it was difficult deciding how to place two deserving horses I asked myself, which would I rather breed? That made the decision easy and correct.

God Doesn’t Make Ugly Horses

No one who loves horses would insult one. We admire and appreciate them all. Even when a head “lacks refinement.” God hasn’t made an ugly horse yet.

Some of the most beautiful horses in the world don’t get a second look from passers-by. Their beauty is more than skin deep. They’re marvelous beings with servant hearts. From tabloids to the Bible, beautiful outsides and insides are rarely packaged together.

Photos of beloved ponies who raised at least one family of kids reveal what a heart-of-gold looks like. Shaggy. Plump. Scruffy. Loved. The entire pony isn’t usually visible because it’s draped with kids. Patient. Serving. Teaching.

Love creates beauty. Physical beauty can inspire lust, but not love.

God Observes What We Do With Horses

Horses come to us as servants and teachers. Scared at first. Then willing, if we’re worthy of their service. Turning them into champions of looks or performance is a human thing. We do that. God didn’t. Yet He watches everything we do. The decisions we make. How we treat the gift He gives us that is horse.

Are we willing to learn? Do we have teachable spirits?

Three of the prettiest horses I trained were problems. Challenging. Difficult. Somewhat unbalanced by nature. They came from families that didn’t play with a full deck. That weren’t bad horses, but of limited use other than attractive pasture ornaments.

People breed pretty horses. Which produces more pretty horses. When pretty comes with issues, many breeders don’t care. They want pretty because it usually sells.

For more, read the chapter “Pretty is as Pretty Does” in Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace

The prettiest horses I worked with were purchased because they were lookers. Their owners didn’t evaluate everything else, like temperament, physicality, or ask about family history. At least two of the owners knew there were temperament issues in the bloodlines, but figured it wouldn’t be a problem with their horses – “because she’s so pretty!”

Horses are a gift from God. How we respond to them reveals our spirit. God watches. He weighs hearts. He leads and corrects. When we love the inside of a horse, God smiles.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

People usually concentrate on their strengths. If it’s physical beauty, they spend time and resources keeping everything looking good. If it’s ability or talent, they practice, refine, and train. Use it or lose it!

Some folks don’t think much about their best or worst features. They simply do – for others. They serve, teach, support, encourage, and love. Unconditionally. Even when the one they’re with isn’t exactly lovable.

These are the truly beautiful people. The ones Jesus refers to in His Sermon on the Mount.

  • The meek
  • The merciful
  • The pure in heart
  • The peacemakers

Horses are beautiful people. With big bodies and bigger hearts. They do. Serve. Teach. Support. And love. Even those who aren’t exactly lovable. Horses forgive and offer grace to those undeserving. Like me. Like most of us at one time or another.

The most beautiful horses I’ve known aren’t the ones with pretty faces, but with the biggest most loving hearts.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men. – Isaiah 53:2-3

Beauty Comes From Family and Relationship

In 2009 God told me to find and bring home our beloved Sky’s last two sons. Sold as babies in 2000, we hadn’t seen them for years. We didn’t need more horses, but you don’t tell God no. At least it’s never worked for me. Only God could engineer this story. Shiner and I share it with readers in He Came Looking for Me.

Shiner and Ace in their home pasture – 2000

Shiner and Sky were sold with their brother Cielo. Beautiful Cielo. I hoped he would still be with them, but he’d already been sold. He was, after all, beautiful and useful. His brothers were not. Sadly, they were running out of time and knew it.

Which is why God sent us to search, find, and reclaim. He knew their circumstance just as He knows yours.

Following several days of miraculous “coincidence” we found the boys. Bred to be World Champion material like their sire, Sky, they should be gorgeous athletes with wonderful dispositions. Not.

Shiner and Ace were discarded trash. Skinny. Depressed. Sore. Spiritless. Hopeless. The worst examples from our breeding program.

I learned the first of many new lessons on the drive home. How proud I would be to bring home beautiful talented Cielo. To introduce him to friends. To further Sky’s legend. To make me look good.

Instead, we found equine derelicts. Neither had a full mane, tail, or hair coat. Neither was useful. Ace had open wounds. Shiner didn’t have one measurable hair on his tail. No pride today, folks.

Fleeting disappointment turned into a heart swollen with love. God, my most loving Father, provided the first of many lessons I  learned from Shiner and Ace. He doesn’t love me because I’m beautiful or useful. He loves me because we’re family. We’re related. I am His. I am beautiful because He loves me.

Shiner and Ace were family. Sky’s boys. Shiner’s mother deserves a story all her own. I loved her. What does God want most from us? To love His Son. That’s the criteria for eternal life in His barn. To love Jesus.

I loved Shiner and Ace for who they are and who they’re related to. Not because of their pedigree or looks. I planned their births and was there when they were born. I knew them and their family. My family. Beauty is what’s inside. What’s baked in and what is molded by shared history. By love.

Read more in the chapter “Another Lesson Learned” in He Came Looking for Me.

Teach What God Values

After Shiner and Ace appeared physically and spiritually rehabilitated I began to worry, What am I going to do with them? They needed jobs. They had the potential to be show horses. How could I, with my bum knees, prepare two middle-aged horses for the show pen?

Wasn’t I obligated to make them the best they could be? Isn’t that what God wants?

Yes. But it has nothing to do with being a show horse. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s desirable or reasonable. God values relationship. That’s what I needed to offer the boys. Home. Relationship. Boundaries. Challenge. Love.

The weight of a thousand bales of hay lifted from my shoulders. God doesn’t expect – or want – us to do what the world sees as profitable. His point of view is quite different.

Can I share something with you? Horses don’t pine away if you don’t ride them regularly. They seek relationship. They’re born with the need for herdship as we are born with the need for God.

Your horse needs the security and community of relationship with a herd or with you. Riding has nothing to do with it. I’ve never seen one horse saddle another, yet horses have survived for millennia.

If you offer a horse the gift of family, keep your promise. You have to be present. Be a good steward. Do what needs to be done. Every day. The resulting blessing is yours.

God is all about the inside of a person, not what the world sees. God knew you before we were born just as I did Shiner and Ace. He’s been with you every moment since. Your value isn’t what you look like or even what you do, but who you are in relationship to Him. To Jesus. That’s it. Profoundly simple.

You can’t ride pretty and pretty won’t get you into heaven.

What matters is relationship.