Sunday, June 27, 2010

For the Sake of A Few Good Trainers


The beautiful "gaited" horses at the Virginia Horse center had tails that scraped the ground like a wedding dress train a foot longer than the horse. Their necks were curved with an impossible arch, and they picked up their feet like they were stepping on hot coals. They are the "super-models" of the horse world- no one looks that good without an airbrush.

We stopped there for a couple of hours before our final spurt home as both Asherel and I love watching horses. We also love riding them but watching them is much less expensive. We were fortunate enough to chance upon the gaited regional horse show so the entire show was filled with these exaggerated perfections of equininity. (ps- I am pretty sure that is not a word, but it should be.)

I felt a little uncomfortable watching as I had read that the exaggerated gait, high flashy stepping, and overarched neck were the result of cruel training techniques. What I discovered upon researching it at home later is like in many things, there are cruel trainers and humane trainers and the methods used by the humane trainers do not hurt the horse. Apparently even from babyhood, flashy high steppers are evident. I also was surprised to discover that the gaited horses are ridden slightly further back from the pastern which is a fancy word for shoulder, unless it is not, as again, I am only making a semi-educated guess. This makes the ride smoother for the rider and also takes the weight off the horse's front legs, allowing that flashy high step to become even flashier and higher. I am not a gaited horse trainer so I can't say for sure if the horses are happy to be prancing like their hooves are on fire or not. But it is pretty to watch.

And it would be unfair to brand a whole equine discipline cruel just because some people in the discipline are cruel. If it was fair to broad-brush demonize a group because of a few bad apples, then all humankind would be down the toilet.

It reminds me of Abraham negotiating with God in Genesis 18 when He wants to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham is horrified, and not only because his nephew Lot is living there.
He cries out, "Lord! Surely you will not wipe out the wicked with the righteous? What if 50 kind and humane horse trainers are in the city? Will you still wipe it out?"
(I am paraphrasing to make the link to my horse story a little clearer.)
"No," says God, "I will save it for 50 nice horse trainers."
Abraham quickly calculates the number of humane horse trainers he knows and asks, "How about if you only find 40?"
"Ok, I will save the city for 40 humane trainers."
"30?"
"Only because you agreed to drop everything and go where I told you when I told you," answered God, "I will save it for 30."
Abraham is getting nervous because as he looks out over Sodom, he is not certain he can drum up even 30.
"20?" (he is cringing here because depending on God's mercy meter today, there is a distinct possibility that God is getting annoyed.)
"You drive a hard bargain, Abe, but for 20, I will still stay my hand."
"One last plea and I promise I am done. Will you save it for 10....for just 10 righteous trainers? Afterall, if you wipe out the good ones...who will guide and perhaps positively affect the bad?"
God heaves a deep sigh, because He really admires Abraham's gumption as well as his compassion for the fools of the city. But what God knows that Abraham doesn't is not even 10 righteous people are in those wicked places. We all know how it ends for Sodom and Gomorrah- Lot is saved but everyone else, including his wife, perish.
Righteousness was in short supply.

It still is. I don't mean the kind of righteousness that makes horse trainers kind or cruel in guiding horses to prance prettily. I mean the kind of righteousness that makes us give our last dime to the poor, or speak gently when we are treated harshly, or humbly admit when we have erred and beg forgiveness, or hold back angry words of impatience, or pride, or disgust, and I don't mean to just our enemies....but to our loved ones as well. I don't know about the gaited horse training world, but I do know about me, and hard as I try, I sure am not righteous.

Fortunately, I have someone pleading my case, standing on the hill looking down on my city and staying God's hand saying, "Destroy me instead for the sake of the unrighteous one...."
To my eternal relief and gratitude, that is what God did.

Job 16:19-21 (New International Version)

19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.

20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;

21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend.

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