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One Step at a Time!

One Step at a Time!

By Betsy Kelleher

Here’s a question for my readers: How is the process of training a horse like publishing a book? The answer is: both take more time and patience than you thought!  

For many years, I have tried to get a book published, from an idea that emerged from the training of my first horse. Fanny had been my oldest son’s 4-H project for three years before I became her owner. As a seven-year-old headstrong mare, Fanny needed a lot more retraining than I had knowledge and skill to handle.

I tried to take Fanny to a trainer, but God literally blocked me with one obstacle after another until I decided to stop and see what else He had in mind. A few days later, I met Pam, who helped me all that summer to train Fanny, to get ready for a competitive trail ride and to learn the principles of partnership with a horse.

Fanny’s life ended in 1991 after she was kicked by another mare in the pasture. Her story was already in the rough draft stage. For the last ten years, I have sent out proposals and query letters to various publishers without any positive response, rewriting all the while and changing the name of the book three times. This year I was able to begin the process of self publishing.

Since June, I have e-mailed back and forth with my project manager at Pleasant Word, asking questions, sending text and photos, correcting galley proofs and asking more questions. At first, I hoped to see my book in print by the end of September, then the middle of October, and now I am hoping for sometime in November! Every time I think the book is about ready, I am told of another step that needs to be taken.

At first, I just wanted to get it done, to have a book in my hands, even if it contained a few letters out of line or a comma in the wrong place. After rewriting for years, going over it again and again, I thought I was done with that! And I was willing to accept the first set of galleys and not hold up the process by making changes that weren’t necessary. But my project manager proofread the book herself, bringing up issue after issue that I had missed. I am excited to see each e-mail with attached galleys, and I eagerly read through the entire manuscript one more time, hoping it is finally ready. But no, three times around and I find it must go through still another correction process. And each set of corrections have been taking about two weeks. At times, I wonder if this book will never get printed!

The day I first saw the cover image was a great delight! I eagerly look forward to holding my first book in my hand like a newborn child, with the miracle of conception and the pain of delivery behind me and the real adventures of promotion and possible reward ahead! Let’s get this show on the road!

But God must have another lesson for me to learn first. He seems to be putting up obstacles again, maybe trying to get my attention (and I’m trying to discern just what I’m supposed to be learning from this!). While talking to my project manager on the phone recently, she mentioned a book by Andrew Murray, “Waiting on God.” Of all the hundreds of books I own, I don’t have that one! Since talking to her, I have relaxed a bit. I am trying to depend more patiently on God and to seek His guidance for each step. I finally came to the place where I could say, “OK Lord, let it be Your timing, not mine. I want it to be right.” After all, part of the message in my book is the need to submit to God’s will! Guess I need to read the book again and again!

I cannot hurry through this process as I would like. I must make sure each step is completed correctly as I go along, just as we do when training our horses.

Most professional horse trainers follow a pattern, taking it step by step, teaching lesson after lesson, building from the fundamentals to more specialized abilities. Before a horse is old enough to carry a saddle, there are years of handling that lead toward building trust, respect, obedience and acceptance of human leadership. Each horse may accept each lesson in its own timing, just as children in school, but the lessons are basically given step by step. The training of a horse goes on for years, and actually may never end for those who are seriously competing. Come to think of it, learning to be a follower of Christ is also a lifelong endeavor!

My book is based on the idea that God works with us in many of the same ways that we work with our horses. We work to build trust, for example, to build a relationship in which the horse learns to depend upon our guidance. I feel that God is currently teaching me that lesson of dependence upon Him and I am being forced to stop and pay attention! 

Am I too much like my Tennessee Walker mare, Lady, who is very inclined to want to be in charge? I work with her in the arena now and then, taking time to lead her around, to stop her firmly when she barges ahead, reinforcing the idea that she is supposed to listen and wait for my direction instead of rushing ahead of me. Sometimes I wonder if she will ever learn! I know this is her personality, and I do love her dearly, but I must constantly work on this issue, for her own good and mine!

But wait, isn’t that what God is doing to me? I want my books as soon as possible! And for some reason, the process seems so slow. I need the advice of others who know this publishing business more than I do, but this book is my creation and I am in charge of making it right! Or am I? 

Within my book, a very important lesson came from Fanny’s training for distance riding. I found that she didn’t get fit enough to win when I didn’t take time to ride consistently. I learned that each step has meaning and purpose. If I want to succeed at any project, I must keep going, focus on the goal, and not give up. Impatience, fear, and discouragement are great hindrances. It is best to patiently and carefully tend to each moment, to see it as an opportunity and make it count. Sometimes you ride even when you don’t feel like it, because each day’s ride has a purpose in meeting the goal.

I am suddenly aware of all the things in life that do require time and patience. Training a horse, raising a child, going to school, planning an event, getting to know another person, writing a book, getting it published; I remember someone saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” Each task teaches us patience and requires us to gain needed information and reach for a deeper understanding than we have had before. We grow inside when we truly put ourselves into the effort and focus on the task at hand.

In Colossians 3:23–24, the writer encourages us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

If nothing else, I am beginning to take this process more seriously, and to see that I have a chance to make sure my creation is right. Perhaps God is helping me to be true to my purpose rather than feeling pressured to just get it done. I realize I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I have been trying not to go overboard in that direction. But I also have realized that this is the only chance I will have to “perfect” this book. After years of going over the text, now thinking that was done, I realize that this publication process involves countless details yet to be considered. Reading the text over again and again, I am distracted at times by the message itself, and I am reminded of what I thought I had learned but still need to practice. I must make so many decisions each time I go over it, whether to change a certain word or not, whether to leave a phrase the way the publisher changed it, even though it seems to lose the meaning I intended. So many overwhelming decisions, it seems, and each one means more time before I can hold my new “baby” in my hands. It tests my patience, but it is a necessary part of the process and I must accept each step with the right attitude.

I share this lesson with you all: that we must be true to the purpose of our lives and take the time to enjoy and use each moment to make it count. With any project that has value to us, we must keep at it without getting discouraged, without losing heart, until that moment when we know inside that it is right.

At my age (do I dare admit that I’m now on Medicare?), I have suddenly become too aware of all my relatives and friends who have already left this earth for an eternal home. I know I am in line for that step one day, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering and worrying when it will be! I want to feel there is meaning and purpose and value in my existence. I used to think that this book was the principle effort of my life. If so, when the book is actually published, will that mean my life will soon be over? That thought has actually worried me at times. I wonder, too, if deep inside that thought has somehow caused me to sabotage my own efforts. However things work out, I want to believe that God is still in control of all things, working them out for good. I want to live my life calmly focused on God’s leadership, eager and willing to follow, with a deep faith that gets me through the daily obstacles. Not there yet, but still hoping! 

The title of the book is “Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse.” The rather long sub-title is: “A personal story of discovery of a spiritual message in the horse & rider experience.” The book relates my experiences with Fanny as I discovered a spiritual parallel between horse training and Christian discipleship. I was greatly influenced by Sally Swift’s “Centered Riding” principles and I found them just as amazing when applied to my spiritual life! For information updates on the book, my horses and my columns, you can log onto my new website: where you can share your own stories and opinions! I hope to hear from many of you. To order a signed copy, e-mail me at or contact me through the website.

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