Finishing the Course


The course had been rocky.

As a beginning rider, I had never purposefully done canter-jumping, and I had only occasionally done more than one jump at a time. But here I was, seated on Sir Steven, in the middle of the ring with 12 other contenders, riding an “Equitation over Fences” course at a local horse show.

We hadn’t started off particularly well. It was over 30°C, and I couldn’t get poor Steven, who was on his 5th class of the day, to do anything past a trot. After the first jump, he picked up a canter, but on the wrong lead. I pulled him up to correct this, but then I couldn’t get him back into a canter. Until we were over the third fence, that is, and then he took off and flew over the fourth fence.

That’s when things completely fell apart. I nearly came off my horse. I lost my stirrup and my efforts to find it threw me even more off-balance. With the next jump already looming ahead, I had no choice but to pull Steven off the course.

Naturally, the fact that he was already AT the next jump made it look like he was refusing, which is a major fault. And naturally, we were right in front of the judge . . .

Overall, it had been an emotionally-laden day. I had been “geared-up” to ride in an adult beginner class against my son, an intermediate rider on a beginner horse. Morning warm-ups however, showed that my son’s horse was actually working at an intermediate level that day, and our instructor placed him in two intermediate classes. I now had no one to compete against, and my instructor, who knows what I can do, but also knows I need to be “pushed”, signed me up for two intermediate classes.

On the one hand I was excited, but on the other hand, I was absolutely petrified about this Equitation over Fences class. Believe me, I was praying non-stop. And then it started off on the wrong foot and just kept getting worse . . .

One of the sons of Korah could have been able to relate. His Psalm, found in Psalms 88, is laden with “bad news, "guys” stuff . . . Just as an example: “Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out before You day and night. May my prayer reach Your presence; listen to my cry. For I have had enough troubles, and my life is near Sheol. I am counted among those going down to the Pit. I am like a man without strength, abandoned among the dead. I am like the slain lying in the grave, whom You no longer remember, and who are cut off from Your care. You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit, in the darkest places, in the depths. Your wrath weighs heavily on me; You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves . . .” (Ps. 88:1-7)

Sometimes, after telling the tales of woe, the Psalms turn around. This one doesn’t. The theme of “bad news” continues all the way to the end.

I had read this particular Psalm the very morning of the horse show, but I hadn’t understood it. “God,” I said, “what do You mean for me to learn from this Psalm of woe?”

His response was immediate: “Sometimes you will feel like this particular son of Korah!”

True.

“Then what?”

I didn’t have an answer for that one. Nor did I have time to find one. We had to be at the barn by 7:30 a.m., and we were already running late. I pushed the question aside.

I’m ashamed to admit that once at the barn, I completely forgot about my morning query, and I didn’t remember it again until I found myself in the ring, off course, half out of my saddle. Then it hit me. I felt like Korah! I had prayed for help and God had abandoned me! I felt totally defeated, ready to pull Sir Steven completely off the course, ready to return to the gate to cry out my frustrations on the shoulder of my riding instructor . . .

But I didn’t.

You see, I knew my God, and I knew my horse could finish the course. I’d seen him do it with my younger son earlier that same day. I knew that if I could get my foot back into the stirrup and re-enter, I would be fine. And that’s what I did. I circled. I got myself situated in my saddle, and I re-entered the course.

Sir Steven took the next jump, broke into a canter on the correct lead, and maintained the canter for the remainder of the course. Those last three jumps went off so beautifully that the former trouble didn’t even matter to me anymore.

We didn’t place in the class, but that didn’t matter either. I learned something that day that was far more valuable than anything I’d ever learned in the riding-instructor’s rink: I learned that when things go wrong, I must trust my God. I must pick back up, re-enter the course, and go on.

When you begin to feel like Korah, when God seems to have abandoned you in life and everything seems to be going wrong, when you feel totally unseated and bucked around, DON’T GIVE UP! Instead, TRUST IN YOUR GOD! You’ve already seen Him at work. You know from history that He’s done this course many times. He’s not going to let you down! Just take a moment to regroup, to remember who God is, then get back into the course of life and let God do the rest! Just like Sir Steven did such a beautiful job finishing the course, God will ALWAYS come through.

Lyn Chaffart

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