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Of Horses and Care

May 23, 2022 | Derry Long

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One of the highlights of the second half of 2021 was the invitation to join a friend on a leisurely six-mile horse ride through the Hyalite Canyon area south of Bozeman, Montana. A beautiful fall day, good friends, horses, what could be better?

But I learned something from my friend about the importance of caring for what you love. A user might just expect to arrive, jump on a horse, and head out into the mountains. But let me take you through a wise man’s routine.

We arrived at the ranch. First, out to the pasture to round up the three horses we would ride and then a walk back to the barn. Second, putting the halters onto the horses. Third, brushing the horses down with a soft bristle brush. Fourth, blankets for the backs of the horses, then the saddles, secured with a wide-band cinch under the belly of the horse and a loosely-fitting thin leather cord. Surely, we are ready, but no. Next a series of thin connected leather straps from across the shoulders of the horse and connected to the halter and each side of the front of the saddle, followed by a somewhat similar set of straps around the rump of the horse and under the tail and connected to each side of the rear of the saddle. These light and loose front and back straps stabilize the saddle and keep it from sliding forward and backward in more extreme terrain. And finally, setting the length of the stirrups to match the leg length of the rider.

But we are still not done. The horses are then taken out into the corral where the rider stands in one spot and rotates in a circle guiding the horse to walk and trot in one direction and then another, obeying the rider’s commands.

Now, loading into the horse trailer, and finally we are off. And after the ride, the removal of the equipment, storing it away properly, and brushing down the horses with a different kind of brush, metal, circular, to clean the hair of debris, dust, grass, thorns and the like.

I learned some things from watching my friend. Among them, to respect something is to care for it, and care takes time. Further, the care of equipment and horses is just as important as the ride itself, and in fact, is not divorced from the ride.

I grew up on a farm-ranch. As a teen, helping my dad in the field, it was tedious to me that once we arrived in the field, I would have to wait or help as we greased the machinery. He was slow and methodical about it. It was not an add on.

Speed has its’ place and virtue, but even speed rests on something or someone taking time to care for things. And this care often occurs when the lights are off, the audience is gone, a no one is keeping track. It requires a sense of inner integrity. It reveals that there are layers to almost any important enterprise.

I spend a lot of my time in the arena of scholarship. Imagine the benefits many receive from significant pieces of scholarship. Take, for example, the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, giving not only meanings, but the history of words, or Kittel’s 10-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament or the encyclopedic Encyclopedia Britannica. The time, the detail, the coordination and collaboration, the checking and double-checking, the days any nights alone with materials.

We all have arenas of life that require not a time-clock but respect. . .opportunities that come to us, skills and giftings we possess, responsibilities and callings. All these require care or something is missed, devalued, or lost.

Jesus, at twelve, told his parents that he needed to be about his Father’s business (Luke 2:49). Paul told Timothy to stir up the gift he had received from others (1 Tim 4:14). Paul says of himself, that he fought the good fight and completed the race (2 Tim 4:7). It took time for Joseph’s destiny to be discovered, uncovered, and fulfilled. For that matter, Moses and Nehemiah’s purposes took time to develop. The list is long of those faithful to care for what they were entrusted. And then we have some, like Demas (2 Tim 4:10) or Saul (cf. 1 Sam 13) who betrayed their callings.

So I am grateful for the lesson in care. It caused me to ponder over whether there were those things I have been entrusted with that I was racing past too fast. Sadly, the answer was yes. I am trying to honor the insight by making adjustments. . .in short, to care.

Derry Long

Professor of Christian Leadership

Dr. Derry Long has served in ministry for over 45 years in many roles – pastor, church planter, pastoral coach, regional overseer, and […]

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