Ben & the Barn

Ben wrote this a couple weeks ago. I (Sarah) missed it – sorry, Ben! He spent his last work rotation at the barn – a few weeks that transformed his idea of horsemanship and inspired a calling. We’re pumped for you, Ben!

by: Ben, Vanguard

To say that God doesn’t work in completely mysterious ways is like saying Wisconsin doesn’t have snow in April after mid 50 degree weather. It’s simply ridiculous. At the start of our final work rotation, I did not think I would be in the place I am today in terms of future plans. Coming into Vanguard, I had adapted a curiosity for Philosophy, primarily because it was a field in which you could argue for several stances at a time and still be right, in your mind at least. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of taking life’s big questions and picking them apart in order to “solve” them. However, there’s one slight problem to this otherwise brilliant plan: how do you know if you’re right? Who’s to say they know God’s will over someone else? Eventually, this detail bothered me so much that I fell back into my old habit of worrying about my vocation/ God’s calling in life. As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry, because God knew exactly what He wanted to use me for and had quite an interesting way of going about it.

When I was nine or so years old, my sister expressed an interest in having a horse as a pet. Now, most families would disregard this idea on the grounds of having no room to house such a large animal or not wanting to have the hassle of boarding it at a farm or ranch. Since we had a farm with a cattle herd, how bad could one more beast be? I remember going to look at a horse with her, and also expressing an interest in the situation. We brought Kate home with eager expectations and little knowledge of horses (mistake 1). Kate was most likely abused growing up or trained in a most harmful manner (mistake 2-caused by the previous owner). I also remember, quite vividly, the first time I “rode” Kate. Looking back now, I have no clue if she was saddled correctly, if she was in good health, if she had ever been ridden before, etc. In short and for some unknown reason, Kate didn’t want me on her and bucked me off. She then, in turn, bucked my parents a few times. We gave up riding her, and instead tried acclimating her to new surroundings and new owners.

Kate never changed her attitude, and so we sent her to an Amish farm for some “correction.” At that point in my life, I didn’t know what “correction” meant, only that their “training” was supposed to fix her attitude. I’m not sure my parents knew what the process involved, but the program had been recommended to us. Again, we didn’t know much about the Equine Industry, which often uses physical abuse and torture to break a horse of its habit. Looking back now, I’m afraid that’s what happened to Kate. When we got her back, the individual that had been working with her said she was great and had no more problems. Unfortunately, the same did not occur with our family. Of course the horse was going to obey its abusers command lest it be whipped into submission again. But when responsibility was returned to us, she saw an opportunity to escape the grasp of humans. Because of her worsened condition, Kate was put down. After seeing her final ride down the road, I vowed to myself that I’d never ride another horse again. After all, who would want to after an experience like that? At this point, God must’ve chuckled to himself and said: “Just you wait and see laddie, just you wait and see. One day you’ll come to the realization that I’m the one in control of your future.”

And thus begins day one at the HoneyRock barn. I have been dreading (and secretly shaking at) the idea of riding again. We start the morning chores, including feeding responsibilities, manure management and supplement administration. We meet Jacleen (our MST leader) in the Tack House and go over very basic information about equipment and safety. Then…we find out which horses we will be caring for and working with during that week. I was paired with Ti, a Quarter Horse that matched my ability level, or so I was told. We learned how to catch horses, halter and lead them, and how to groom and saddle. I brought Ti in without much trouble, but when we approached the arena, she started to grow uncomfortable and fidgety. We got prepared to saddle, and I was informed that Ti was afraid of all artificial things such as saddles, blankets, bridles, cones, barrels and fences just to name a few. Oh, and myself because I was something new and unfamiliar to her. You would assume by now I would be starting to freak out a little bit over these circumstances. Aaaaand you would be right in that assumption. I was starting to second guess my persevering nature and my idea of trying to heal old scars. So here we are, Ti and I, keeping our distance from each other and both fidgeting, anxious to get it over with. I lead Ti over to a mounting block and start to mount. My heart is beating much faster than I’d like it to be…and I successfully mount Ti. Immediately, I kid you not, immediately both man and beast take a deep breath and realize we’re not going to kill each other.

Over the next three weeks, I would find myself going to the barn just to observe the horses to see their attitudes that day and wonder why they acted in the ways they did. In short, I fell in love with horses and all the baggage and faults they carry with them. It reminds me of our Heavenly Father loving us unconditionally, no matter what our problems may be. Reflecting back on Kate, I don’t think God put her into our family because my sister wanted a pet, but because He knew He could create a disciple out of a traumatic experience. Now THAT’S a God I want in my life. I feel the utmost peace in saying I have finally found my vocation, God’s calling in life. It even worked out that my sister researched colleges for me that offered Equine Studies and found my future four year home! Through this, all I can repeat over and over in my head is: “God is great. He is all knowing. He will not disappoint.” God Bless!


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