The Season for Reminiscing
By Betsy Kelleher
While searching for an idea for this November column, I found myself thinking of the events I wrote about in my first book, Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse, published in the fall of 2004. Memories were flooding my mind as I recently worked with this book again, to publish it in e-book form to Amazon’s Kindle store.
My second book, MARES! (Ya gotta love em), was already available for Kindle, Nook and Google readers. I went through the publisher for that one. All I had to do was click the online pay button.
My first book’s publisher was charging a lot more for a conversion, and I decided on a cheaper route. I paid a professional graphic designer to produce an epub file and recently transferred the file to Amazon myself. Since my original cover belonged to the publisher, I had to come up with a different one. By the way, if anyone needs graphic design work, I would highly recommend Grover Web & Design, with C. Jean Grover.
While proofreading the epub file that Jean sent me, I found myself rereading my own story. Once again, I thought about Fanny and our competitive trail riding days, thirty years ago. Most of our rides were in the fall. I remembered the many incidents that prompted me to start writing the book. I thought of how God had used Fanny in my life, and how much I had learned from the relationship and our experiences. And this is the right season to be thankful for all of it.
Fanny was young and untrained when she was purchased for my oldest son’s 4-H project. For three years, I tried to help train her without knowing much myself. And then suddenly, Fanny was mine. All the desire within me came alive, to ride and train my own horse! I decided to get a month’s help from a professional trainer, but one obstacle after another after another stopped me. I finally sensed that God was behind this, and I said, OK, God, what do YOU want me to do here? A few days later, I met a young woman in my office who became my helpful horse trainer and my best friend for twenty years. Pam passed away five years ago, in November of 2007, three days before her 61st birthday. I miss her.
Pam coached me how to condition Fanny for our first competitive trail ride, back in 1978. Another woman, Jan Worthington, had introduced me to the sport. After my first ride, I was hooked! I was obsessed with the desire to win, to help Fanny place on a distance ride. We earned four completion awards, but never placed. I still believe Fanny could have won, if I’d taken more time to keep her fit.
There were so many things back in those days that were important in my life. Pam’s friendship and help with Fanny, and learning about Sally Swift’s Centered Riding principles. Funny, how you think you learn so much—and then you forget half of it. That is precisely why I sometimes reread this book that I wrote. To remind myself of those things that God put into my life and what they meant to me. It’s not good to live in the past, to wallow in regret or find pride in past success. But it sometimes helps to look back at what you learned in order to reapply those things to today’s situations.
Because of Sally Swift, I was able one day to ride Fanny past a turkey that stood in an open doorway of a barn. So what? Well, for Fanny and me, that was a major victory, and I had prayed for a victory that very morning. I had ridden Fanny in a Centered Riding clinic with Miss Swift and riding past that turkey was my exit from the day’s session. I know that Fanny would never have walked past that turkey without Miss Swift’s instruction. The next paragraph is a quote from my book.
As I directed Fanny toward the door, my predictable mare took one look at the turkey, tensed up and scooted backward about twenty feet like she’d seen a ghost. “Sit, sit, sit!” Miss Swift insisted. I sat. “Eyes up, seat down. Sit!” I did what Miss Swift said as though I was hypnotized. “Breathe!” I did. And Fanny walked out that door, right past the turkey.
It was one of those moments that never come again. It was an experience to prove that Miss Swift’s principles worked. Not long ago, as I remembered how they worked with Fanny, I asked myself why I didn’t use them with Lady and with Rocky. So I tried. And somehow, even without Sally Swift telling me what to do, I found her four basic principles still had an amazing effect. Back to the basics, once again!
I have been slightly amazed to hear a good response from so many readers of my first book. And I have seen a few not-so-pleased comments from readers on Amazon’s list of reviews. The first negative comment related how my book was not “spiritual” as she thought, but was instead too religious. And then I noticed a surge of sales soon after that comment was posted! I had to smile. Were there some people out there who actually wanted a religious book about a horse? Since my book was published, I have seen several other books published about horses, with a Christian viewpoint. I smile again.
The “spiritual” message of my book is this—yes, I’m giving away the secret. The NIV Bible refers to “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” in Colossians 1:27. But in the Phillips Translation, the verse reads this way: “And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all the glorious things to come.”
Before those things to come, we must deal with today. Ephesians 6:10 says to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” It is God’s power that works in spite of our weakness, through His sovereign authority and through Christ and His Holy Spirit living within us, to help us overcome life’s obstacles and temptations. That power is released through our human efforts as we choose to obediently follow God’s guidance and allow His control. Submission is the key. But only through trust in God can we submit to His will. Only through our trust and obedience can we tap into that power beyond our own.
I am amazed how God works through imperfect humans to do His perfect will. But I have this example. As I followed Sally Swift’s instruction, I operated out of her knowledge and skill and Fanny obeyed. If I follow God’s Spirit within me, I can operate from His wisdom and strength. As Jesus said, he who has ears to hear, let him hear.
(Originally published in the November 2012 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)