Updated: Jan 25, 2019
Written by Founder and Director, Carissa Ramsdell Horses are strong, majestic, beautiful animals. Most people will acknowledge that. From there, it seems they split into two different camps: those that love horses, and those that are terrified of them. Usually following that declaration is a story about being on a guided trail ride with a horse that got spooked, a story about someone being seriously injured by a horse, or just an expression of reverent fear for their sheer size and power. Whichever camp they fall into, there is a universal understanding that when near a horse, they are in the presence of physical power that can be intimidating if you don’t understand it.
Clearly, God made horses with a keen ability to display their power and majesty. We read in a dialogue between God and Job in the Bible that He purposefully made horses this way:
“Do you give the horse its strength
or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
it does not shy away from the sword.”
The way an individual approaches something he or she is afraid of is as unique as each person. Their experiences of successes and failures in life, trauma, loss, the way their parents were involved in raising their confidence or shattering it, and their perception of God (which has been shaped by all these things) affects how they deal with fear or the unknown. And each person brings this history into their interaction with a horse.
While not wanting to push the analogy too far, in some ways a horse can provide an earthly demonstration of God to someone who is hurting. A horse is far more powerful than a human, yet it enjoys being in relationship with us. We may not understand how to be in relationship with it yet, but the horse is patient with us (like God is). Our first steps in that direction are influenced by our fears of the unknown, of rejection or of not being welcomed in relationship.
For so many kids and young adults who come to the Ranch, we see doors of conversation flung wide open as they begin to walk toward a horse for the first time. Their trust or mistrust of leaders becomes evident, the way they approach new situations is revealed, what they think about God and His power and majesty is brought to light. It’s an entry point into their world that allows us to see where we can become a part of their story and introduce a Creator who not only made the horse, but made them; who understands their fears, who knows their story, and who can help them become brave in the face of something that may leave them at first feeling unsure. From there, the gap between the Ranch and their every-day life is bridged. As they experience what it means to engage a horse in a trust-based relationship and overcome fear and insecurity to interact with something that at first seems intimidating, they learn that the horse desires what they do: relationship, understanding, and trust. And they learn that the One who created them and knows everything about them (and loves them right where they are) is not so intimidating. And that His power and majesty are indeed, beautiful.