I was given my first horse in July of 1985 at the age of eleven, which still ranks as one of the best days of my life, ever. I got everything I had been dreaming of wrapped up in a neat 14.2 hand, bay, blaze-faced package. Her name was Flicka, and I had her for thirteen years. I still consider the day I had to have her put to sleep for an incurable illness as one of the toughest days of my life.
Since then I have been blessed to have many horses come and go in my life. We’ve had no less than forty horses pass through the Strong Rock barn in the past eight years. I even still have Taffy, who my family bought as a companion for Flicka in 1987. Not many people get to keep a horse for 25 years. In all my years of teaching horseback riding I have had the pleasure to work with many horses who we horse folks label as “bomb-proof,” “babysitters,” or “packers” (meaning they will “pack” anyone who is aboard and take good care of them). Horseback riding teachers love these guys.
Strong Rock has had a couple of these wonderful horses to grace its arena. One of them is Maverick, who came to us through a neighbor. He taught countless campers to canter, which is a tricky skill for a beginner to master. He patiently cantered a slow, straight line, over and over, so they could get the feel of it. Maverick passed away a few days before Christmas from a blocked intestine. By the time I found him in the pasture it was too late for a vet to do anything for him. He is leaving a big gap in the horse line up for beginners for the summer, and a big gap in our hearts. He was a real trooper, and he is missed.
I’ve been considering the qualities of Maverick as they apply to my own life as a Christian. He was good-natured, agreeable, patient, and unflappable. He readily followed an instructor anywhere, especially when he was unsure about what to do, like when a camper who didn’t understand how to use the reins was aboard. He also read his Bible and prayed. (Just making sure you were paying attention!) He may not have been able to do all the things we as humans can, but he was a shining example of a faithful servant. He did have his cranky moments when the sun was too hot, the day was too long, or beginner riders had tugged at his mouth and bounced too hard. He never failed to head toward an instructor on days like these and just stand there, casting a longing eye toward the gate and the barn. He was looking for help and for rest.
Examination of my own life doesn’t always show me to be this kind of servant for my Lord. I pray that I will develop more and more of the qualities exemplified by Maverick and other “packers” I’ve had the privilege to know and work with. Patience, gentleness, always looking to my Master for rest and guidance, these are qualities God desires for me and for us all.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21