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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Up and Down (04/02/09)

TITLE: Riding Lessons
By Shirley McClay


I tried not to breathe too deeply as the dust cloud billowed around me. My riding class posted to a trot as they circled the arena. Some had found the rhythm easily while others were bouncing in their saddles.

I stopped when Gina, one of those bouncing, pulled her horse to a halt next to me and dropped the reins on his neck. She tipped her helmet back and glared at me, the horse, and the world in general. Tear streaks cut paths through the dust on her face. She was, by far, my most tenacious student.

“I don’t get it, Miss Laurie. I just can’t find the rhythm no matter how hard I try.”

I stood next to her and turned my thoughts to my own Trainer. “God, can you help me out here, please. How can I show her?”

We both silently watched the other riders circling. Some bounced roughly, trying to find the posting rhythm just as Gina was. Others moved fluidly, in tune with their mount’s every move. Gina’s brow was creased in concentration and her lips pursed as she studied my star pupil, Kelly. “Miss Laurie, I watch Kelly and I see exactly what you mean. With every stride of her horse she rises and then the next stride she comes back down. It looks so smooth.”

I continued to study Kelly as Gina turned Rocker back into the stream of trotting horses. Gina trotted past me again, her hips popping up and down, up and down. It almost seemed as if she was fighting the rhythm of her gentle, steady horse. Then Kelly trotted past on Dancer. So much barely controlled power in the Thoroughbred and yet Kelly barely seemed to move.

It’s like you, Laurie. Gina is going up and down, trying to make it work. Kelly is simply shifting forward and back, allowing Dancer’s gait to direct her movement.

I stood and watched them as I listened to my Instructor. His words made me fight back tears. My own spiritual life was being reflected in the riding in front of me.

Stepping into the middle of the arena, I blew my whistle. The class slowed their horses and turned them into the center, facing me. Saddle leather creaked and horses snorted. Then the sounds stilled and I took a deep breath. “I need to share something with you all. Some of you have learned a valuable lesson. One that God is asking me to learn… not in riding, but in my own life.”

I walked around and met the eyes of each of the riders before me. “The movement of your horse trotting compels you to respond. Some go up and down… some move forward and back. The up and down is not the real movement of your horse. What you are actually doing is trying to find your own way of dealing with the movement.” I paused to force back tears. “I usually react this way in my spiritual life, too. God pushes me forward… out of my comfort zone... and my reaction is to… well… react!” I would have run my fingers through my shoulder length curls but they were pulled back into a French braid, so I adjusted my hat… and readjusted it. Again. “I try to find a way I can deal with it... to lessen the tension and the pressure. Just as you tense up and have an unnatural movement in your posting… I often do the same in my spiritual life.”

My eyes connected with Gina’s and I saw understanding dawning. Her gaze shifted down to her mount and then to the rail. I knew she was ready to try again. The same longing stirred in my own heart.

“Those of you who move forward and back have found the true movement of your horse. Their legs have this same natural direction and you’re feeling their movement and allowing them to direct you. Your weight and hips shift forward as the leg moves forward and shift backward as that same leg is driven backwards. Instead of trying to find your own way, you have found the rhythm and the two of you… horse and rider, are moving in harmony. You help each other and balance together.” I saw the restlessness stir in them. They were ready to put it into action and I knew exactly how they felt.

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This article has been read 883 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 04/09/09
This is a devotional in disguise. Very good life lessons and riding lessons here:)
Loren T. Lowery04/09/09
As a rider who does both Western and English I can so identify with this lesson in the posting trot. It will help me not only in developing my riding skills, but my Christian life walk as well. Well done seems an understatement as to the creative way you worked this week's theme into what a casual observer might simply overlook.
Joshua Janoski04/10/09
I know nothing about horses, but I found myself enjoying this piece. I think it's because you did a spiritual comparison, and that helped me picture things. Good lesson to be learned here.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/11/09
You found a wonderful analogy for the Christian life and described it well...without preaching. Well done.
Beth LaBuff 04/11/09
I'll be reminded of this whenever I see a horse and rider. Your message "finding a way to deal with the movement" is so excellent. I don't even have to ask if you ride horses. :)
Chely Roach04/12/09
This was so lovely...what a wonderful spiritual parallel you've created. Excellent.
Sheri Gordon04/13/09
Love this piece. Your writing is so easy to read, and the message is amazing. Great job with the topic.
Carole Robishaw 04/15/09
I'm in the middle of a struggle to find my way, to stop fighting the movement. Very good analogy.
Karlene Jacobsen04/15/09
I love the spiritual analogy here. So well put.
Beckie Stewart04/15/09
I loved this story. A friend has recently gotten me riding her horses with her and so I could relate well to this. Love the lesson from the Lord in it as well. Well done.
Sheri Gordon04/16/09
Congratulations on your EC. I really enjoyed reading this, and was so glad to see that it placed.
Myrna Noyes04/16/09
CONGATULATIONS on your EC win! :) This was a well-written story with an excellent message!
Eliza Evans 04/16/09
YAY you! Up! Up! Up! :)

Very nice writing, Shirley - as always. Congrats!
Beth LaBuff 04/16/09
Congrats on your EC, Shirley! So cool!
Joshua Janoski04/16/09
I knew people would be able to relate to this one, even if they knew nothing about riding horses. Congrats on your EC!
Margaret Kearley 04/16/09
Thankyou so much for this - what a lesson. Its a most wonderful parable and so challenging