The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Door to Door

The time has come when yours truly needs to start earning some money for real. So yesterday, I screwed up my courage, got into the car with my box of hoof-trimming business cards, and set off to introduce myself to my horsey neighbours.

I was nervous, not normally being the type to go round selling myself, but also a little excited at the prospect of meeting the inhabitants of houses which I scrutinize with curiosity every time I drive past.

The afternoon turned out to be really fun. I was gone for three hours but only stopped at six houses. At three, no one was home (too bad, I really wanted to meet the occupant of that cool log house) and so I just left cards in the door. But the other three houses were welcoming and chatty.

The first house, just along our road, belongs to a young couple with two little children and a very friendly chocolate lab. The husband has a horse-training business, and we exchanged cards. He does his own trimming but is often too busy to keep on top of it, so he might give me a call. He has two of his own horses, as well as two in for training - well, one horse and a mule, which I was excited about, as on the basis of no experience whatsoever, I really love mules. He said this was his first mule experience and he was enjoying it, as mules are "thinkers." Apparently a lot of trainers don't like mules, probably for that very reason, and he's hoping that he might get a name for himself as someone who is good with mules.

At the next house, I saw a yard containing a black horse, a donkey, a calf, two sheep, and an older gentleman leaning on the fence. I pulled in the driveway, climbed out, and introduced myself. We stood for a long time chatting, as he told me the story of the mare and all the other four-legged inhabitants of his barn. The mare he'd set his eye on when he saw her as a not-yet two-year old, carrying a young child safely on a trail ride, and boldly walking up to within a few feet of a caged black bear (which apparently resides up the lane. Crikey who knew?) He had coonhounds in a run out back and told me tales of treeing bobcats up on the mountain.

The mare had not had her feet trimmed in five years, but her hoofs - although definitely on the long side - looked tight and shapely. The calf and the donkey hovered in her shadow, and she fussed over them maternally, touching them with her nose, or scolding them if they stepped out of line. The three of them came over to the fence, and the mare greeted me kindly.

The next house turned out to be the home of a client of my trimming friend, who trims one of their horses and gives riding lessons to the oldest daughter. I spent a long time at this house, as we found lots to talk about, and I had to meet the bantams, the peacock (magnificent in full plumage), all six horses and, of course, the dog.

The horse whom my friend trims is a little Arab mare belonging to the daughter. As she is ridden regularly, they splurge on the extra cost of a balanced barefoot trim, $25 dollars more than the farrier charges for the pasture trim he does on the other five horses. Only trouble is, the pasture trim isn't working out all that well. They have a large draft cross gelding with severely contracted heels and an accompanying deep cleft between the heel bulbs, prone to fungus and thrush. On being questioned about this cleft, apparently the farrier said, "All horses are like that." Only they're not. I charge only a little less than my more-experienced friend, and it feels weird to ask for so much more than the farrier - but the farrier's trim takes 15 minutes and thinks contracted heels are normal, whereas a balanced trim can easily take an hour to perform (unless your name happens to be Gene Ovnicek or something). I'm thinking I might offer a within-radius discount for locations ten minutes or less from my house. Which is assuming anyone wants me to come!

One thing which I took away from my afternoon's adventures was a realization that I'd better be careful to not become holier-than-thou about the Spilkered approach I have with horses. The horse owners I met are people of skill, experience, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Perhaps they could be categorized as "natural horsemanship" owners, but their understanding of horses clearly is wider than the confines of one method or school. The young trainer enjoys the challenge of working with his thinking mule; the old farmer has a little peaceable kingdom in his yard; the last family have three superannuated horses which they take care of out of loyalty and compassion, and their riding horses came crowding round to socialize with the humans.

Driving only a couple of miles brought me into contact with a much larger world.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

First Day of Spring

Phew. We are finally back to what I would call normal. Winter just doesn't seem normal. It has its good points, and no doubt it is doubly gratifying to enjoy warmer weather after months of cold, but really, it just ain't the way it spozed to be.

Today I went out to spend some time in the pasture. First I doled out treats. I brought some ripe banana out, as this is the favorite treat of Katariina's interesting horse, Little Love, and I thought I'd give it a try. Another friend gives mushy banana peels as a treat, but I left those behind in the compost bin. Only Chloe appreciated the banana, but there was apple for the others. George came over as of old and wanted me to scratch him for a prolonged period of time. He even enjoyed having his infamous right side scratched.

When he was done, Bridget came over and spent a long time hanging out with me. Here she is resting her chin on my head while I hold up one of her forelegs.

The wild chives are growing up faster than the grass, and Bridget's breath always smells of onion.

Bridget likes having her head scratched.

I lay down on the ground for a while, and she amused herself chewing on my boots and lifting my leg into the air by grabbing hold of my trouser leg.

It was time to stand up when she decided to put a foot on top of me. She tried the lift-June's-leg-in-the-air trick while I was standing, but that wasn't such a universally agreeable game as the lying-down version.

Chloe came over for a little while. I stood close to Rose, and a couple of times she indicated (I think) that she would like me to scratch a particular place, but she had no desire to socialize other than that.

Then it was time to come in for tea.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Running with Rose

At mealtimes, we often have a live demonstration of the song, "There Were Ten in the Bed." Only in this case, it's not the Little One who says, "Move over" - it's George. The one who falls out has to circle around and go to George's food.

This morning, George moved over to Bridget's dish, Bridget moved over to Rose's dish, and Rose was heading over to Chloe's. But I thought it would be better for Chloe to stay with her pony-sized portion and for  Rose to take over George's. So I stood in front of Rose and said, "Hey, Rose, shall we go over to George's food?"

I looked at Rose, she looked at me, and I said, "Come on!" I started running, and she started running, and we ran over to where George's breakfast sat vacant.

Rose and I don't have as much of a connection as I feel with the others, and so it was good to feel that spark between us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not What We're Aiming For

Poster on the feed store door:

p.s. I'm sure he's a lovely man and that his horses are very happy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Difference

When a stranger comes to the house, our dogs come barking to the door. They then approach the visitor cautiously, sniffing a lot. Eventually, if the visitor stays, they will start to make mild overtures of friendship.

My brother was here visiting last week, and our dogs had never met him before. When I brought him home and we came into the kitchen, the dogs came barreling down the stairs and, without any sniffing or preliminaries, hurled themselves at him,  going "Hello! Hello! Hooray! You're here! How great!"

I've heard it said that dogs recognize family members, whether from their scent or the way they behave or are treated, and I have experienced the phenomenon before. Heretofore unacquainted relatives arrive at the house, and the dogs are instantly comfortable with them. When my father came to stay with us years ago in our second-floor apartment, he arrived by taxi. On hearing the doorbell ring, I went downstairs to open the street door and let him in. Our dog, who had met him once a few years before, hurled herself down the stairs ahead of me in a state of great excitement and happiness. How did she know? What did she sense?

Now the horses .... I took said brother out to the field to see them. They were about 25 yards off when we arrived at the fence. They looked over at us and appeared to say something like, "Who is that strange man over there with June? He might be involved in the veterinary profession. He might possibly be a criminal. We'd better just stay over here." My brother decided we shouldn't bother them.

Just another example of the difference between species.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sharing Knowledge?

George must have told Chloe that he taught me about the "Let's run" face yesterday.

Today I was up in the pasture, putting out the evening hay ration. Now, although Rose and Bridget allow Chloe to eat with them, sometimes she likes to have a flake all to herself, so when I saw her standing off a little bit, I thought she wanted me to bring her a private portion.

I walked over with the flake of hay, but when I reached Chloe, there it was -- the "Let's run" face. I started running, and sure enough, Chloe took off beside me.

When I stopped, I was going to put the hay down, because I thought perhaps one reason Chloe wanted to run was to quick put some distance between herself (and her hay) and the other big horses. But no, she didn't want me to put her hay down in that spot, and she lead me back to the main pile of hay before deciding to take a bite.

All day today, whenever I was outside, I would catch Chloe in the distance, staring rather longingly towards me. Naturally I thought she was hoping I would come and let her out for a spot of lawn grazing. But perhaps not - perhaps she was waiting for a chance to test whether I really did know what the "Let's run" face means. I wonder.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Gate Thing

This business of getting the mares in and out of the gate, past the George, has been very good for all of us, I think.

It has been good for me, because it has given me a lot of confidence in George, and has shown me that patience and trust will be rewarded.

It has been good for the mares and me, as we have learned to pay attention to each other and trust each other during the delicate maneuver of running the George gauntlet.

And it has been very good for George, because he is able to be magnanimous and has learned he can cooperate freely.

Today as I was bringing Bridget back into the field, George barred the way for a long time, generally letting it be known that he would like to come out again. But he was very amiable about it, and I felt quite intimate with him as we stood together in the gap of the gate.

The first time he moved aside, Bridget was reluctant to take the plunge and enter. But Rose saw a chance to go out the gate and was heading toward the space which George had vacated. George, quick as lightning, shot over and ran her off, which was rather helpful of him - although if I had shooed her away, personally I wouldn't have bitten her butt.

Then George stood aside again, and Bridget entered, not without trepidation. George stood perfectly still and let me take Bridget's halter off. I think the mares are a little behind the curve here and that George has advanced further than they yet give him credit for.

Afterwards I gave George a big hug and made a fuss of him, and I think he's beginning to enjoy a little bit of this kind of demonstrativeness, and I think he knows I appreciate him. Anyway I hope so.

Afterwards he followed me along the fence line, wanting to stay in touch. Today felt like spring in more ways than one.

My Walk With June

June was quite well-behaved today. First off, she gave me a pocketful of chopped apple, which earned her some points right there.

She decided we should go for a walk. I make it quite clear that there was absolutely no need to leave the property.

However, she kept going on about how she was sooooo booooored staying at home, so I finally decided to humour her.

There were some strange things in the distance.

We stopped for a lot of snack breaks, and things started looking up when I found some alfalfa.

I had to stop sometimes to make sure the coast was clear ahead.

I am so totally not scared of motorbikes, on account of they're always driving by my field.

It was quite fun when we ran together, but only trouble is, that June is veeeery slow.

She's trying to keep up.
And that's not the only thing about her that's slow either. I had to make the "Let's run" face at her five times in a row at least before she figured out what I was talking about.

This is sorta kinda what my "let's run" face
looks like, but not quite exactly.
I was still a bit worried about what those mares were getting up to back home without me. They're so needy.

When we stopped for grass (well, when I did anyway, June lives on coffee or something like that), sometimes June got to decide when we started up again, and sometimes it was my turn to decide.

Finally I told June it was really time to head home, and I suggested a shortcut. She was quite cooperative and said it was ok.

When we got back to the field, those mares were very glad to see me.

And no wonder, because as you can see, I am damn fine.

Friday, March 11, 2011


This morning I fed the horses as usual, and as usual when it's mealtime, they have no time to spare for socializing. Except occasionally Bridget.

Feeling a desire for some friendly interaction, I parked myself beside Bridget and waited. After a little while, she raised her head, turned her whole body towards me, and reached out with her front leg. I grabbed hold of it and rubbed her knee, while she stuck her nose in my hair. I'm certain now that it is correct to think of the leg gesture as a greeting. She soon went back to her breakfast, but I felt much better.

Her mane is getting very long. I wonder if she'll allow me
to shampoo and condition it when the weather is warmer?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Joining the Club and Dropping Out

My big brother, who is clever like that and knows all sorts of queer stuff, taught me a new word: egregore.

This is not a word found in the dictionary, although I gather it has a history of use in the esoteric arts, dating back to the French occultist Eliphas Levi (about whom, as it happens, my brother has written a book).

Now, I'm not one for the esoteric arts, but the concept of the egregore seems to be a very useful one, applicable to all sorts of circumstances, including the equestrian world. An entry on Wikipedia gives a definition of egregore as "an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people."

An egregore has its own tropes, customs, accessories, language, costume, expectations, values, slogans, and so on. An egregore with which we are all familiar is the zeitgeist  or spirit of the times, which gives each era its distinctive flavor and colouring - the Gay 90's, the Roaring 20's, the Sixties. Egregores should not be exactly equated with institutions or even traditions, although there are certainly overlaps. Institutions are more deliberately formed, and traditions are often passed from generation to generation with some thoughtfulness and care. Both can be modified by their adherents in response to changing circumstances or to better fulfill certain goals. The egregore, on the other hand, is characterized by the unconscious hold it exerts over its votaries and seems to possess a life of its own, growing and morphing according to some law of nature.

An individual taps into the egregore by adopting one of more of its characteristic traits; it is thought that by thus connecting to the egregore, a person will be swept up into and become part of the entity, even without their explicit intention or consent. You don a prison guard uniform and become tyrannical; you put on an apron and feel like you're in Ozzie and Harriet. Similarly one may begin to opt out of the egregore by rejecting even one of its attributes. It is  hard to imagine a Nazi who refuses to use the "Heil Hitler" salute, or a hippy choosing to wear a twinset and pearls.

Clearly there are beneficial, and neutral egregores as well as malevolent ones; the myth of Santa Claus is a pleasant egregore. However, casting around for examples reveals that most instances of egregores are negative. I'm reminded of what Tolstoy said about families: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." (Anna Karenina, Chapter 1) In other words, the confining and defining limitations of the egregore are fundamentally anti-human. It is perhaps counter-intuitive that those who adopt complex and distinctive mores are less happy and free than those who are more "alike." However, elaborate costumes conceal; nakedness reveals. 

One of the elements of the horse world egregore is the tack shop - the tantalizing pages of the Dover catalog, the racks of beautiful smelling leather bridles, the brightly coloured brushes. All these things used to attract me like a jackdaw to a shiny coin. But I notice, with something like regret, that the tack shop's luster has dimmed. I still need to buy brushes and buckets and all that stuff. I still need to buy a saddle. But pondering which saddle I plan to acquire is no longer the ooh-ah experience it once would have been. It's a pragmatic thing now - choosing which saddle will fit the best and optimize horse and rider's comfort. I used to use tack as a way to pigeonhole myself and my horses - to deck us out in the trappings of the egregore. But the horses don't care about looking the part, nor do they desire shiny new things - except to chew on - and I find I've lost my own interest too.

I was lead to reflect further on all this by today's entry over at The Journal of Ravenseyrie, where Lynne Gerard has posted an interesting and valuable response from Kris McCormack and Imke Spilker to some questions raised about their approach to horses, questions asking for more detail and how-to advice.

Both Kris and Imke are emphatic that they cannot and will not provide any kind of formula for others to reproduce their approach. The only way along the path, they insist, is to follow the horse's lead and reject all preconceived rules, techniques, and instructions. Here is Kris clearly articulating an anti-egregore sentiment:

By studying the human experts, learning their formulas and methods, diligently imitating them -- we make ourselves blind and deaf in our interactions with horses. We forsake the reality of here and now and cling to the abstract -- someone else's words and gestures.
The traditional horse world comes complete with sub-egregores - the English world, the Dressage World, the Western World, the Natural Horsemanship World, and so on. The world described by Kris, Imke, Lynne - a world which others of us aspire to inhabit also - is not so easily described. It's a challenge to tell people what we're up to - at least not without having a long conversation. We have to exchange real thoughts about real things in order to describe our activity - there is no shorthand: "Oh, I do Hunter Jumpers." The conversation we are forced to have requires us to refer to ourselves as individuals, with our own feet on our own spot of ground, searching for real answers - not just to "training" questions - but to questions concerning ultimate reality.

Imke Spilker's book, Empowered Horses, does contains one important piece of concrete advice, which was the only thing I had to hold on to as I tried to follow in her footsteps. She said that when you go to fetch your horse out of the pasture, you should put the halter on, with no leadrope, and invite the horse to follow you. If the horse declines, you find something else to do.

Nowadays that doesn't always work for me, as the mares are often intimidated by George if they're not attached to me by an umbilical leadrope; they're not actually free to follow along wearing only a halter. However, Imke's advice was very important because it was a first step in escaping the egregore, an all-important tenet of which is: You Don't Let Your Horse Go On Strike! Sure enough, "disobedience" in one strand of the egregore gradually leads to an unraveling of the whole thing.

A recent entry on this blog was inspired by Ephesians 5:13. Once again St. Paul comes to our aid in Ephesians 6:12, where he talks about what I believe to be egregores:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (New KJV)
Horses are immune from egregores. The only "autonomous psychic entity" which they are plugged into is the mind of the Creator. We are certainly able to enslave them to the same powers and principalities which hold sway over us, by subjecting them to our behaviour under the influence of these rulers, but in themselves they are incapable of being subsumed into such alien collective thought-forms. Like members of a happy family, they are not so different one from another, every horse grounded in the one truth, each unique, but all connected. 
When we meet with our horses, we should come alone and unarmed - the posse and paraphernalia of the egregore should be left behind.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Call Me Crazy

Oh, and you will. But as this blog is as much about what goes in my head as in the pasture, I am going to attempt to set down the latest random meanderings of my mind.

Two roads lead to where I'm going here. One is a recent post by Sandra about a bad fall she experienced, and a link she posted to another blog, where there is a very nice list of Things To Do To Not Fall Off. My attention was particularly caught by the advice to sit in and not on the horse.

The other road is less clear. It started with me searching for the word "horse" in the New Testament (something which is very easy to nowadays thanks to sites like this one. Why was I searching for the word "horse" in the New Testament? Can't remember. But this passage caught my eye:
 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. (Revelation 19:11-14)
I was especially struck by this passage, as a long time ago I wrote a sort of apocalyptic poem involving a white horse, and it occurred to me again that, you know, when the last trumpet sounds and all that, I'd like to be riding with the armies of heaven on a white horse.

So, naturally I wondered if I'd be good at staying on my white horse, while Beasts and Flames of Fire and Dripping Blood and Fiends and Angels are charging about all over the place. I mean, I expect my white horse would be really stalwart and not at all spooky, but there might have to be some pretty snappy maneuvering, and I really hope I would be sitting in and not on my steed.

It's never to soon to start practicing. So I have been imagining myself sitting astride my noble charger (actually, please sign me up for a white Highland pony, I think it would be much safer) and checking with myself to make sure I have an independent seat and hands and that I am in-not-on.

There are all kinds of situations where seat and hands can get stuck together - especially driving and of course .... using the computer. Moreover, every moment in life is a temptation to be on-not-in. I won't go into all the details of lengthening-and-widening-the-back, dropping-the-seatbones, releasing-down-the-back-of-the-legs, freeing-the-neck, dropping-the-elbows - suffice it to say there's enough material to keep me occupied until the last trumpet does in fact sound. Plus also it might come in handy for riding chestnut mares as well.

I could've thought of doing this without the extra incentive of the armies of heaven, but that's what it took to get me to really focus. For the record, I'm actually plugging the scenario outlined in one of my recommended books - The Splendor of Creation, which has a rather different spin on the End Times - orthodox, of course, but distinctly less alarming.  Hopefully there'll be white horses no matter what.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Conversation with Bridget

All right, Bridget, I have to go now.

That's what you always say.

I'll see you later.

Yeah, and then it'll be, like, five minutes, and then you'll be all, "I have to go now" again. 

I'm sorry. We need to learn to ride so we can go for long explorations together and find places where there are yummy things growing.

Well, maybe, but I don't see why you always are running off. You're like one of those bad parents in a movie.

You are a poor, dear, neglected darling.

True story.

You see how late she fed me tonight?

A Goal Achieved

Yes! I have finally attained my goal of weighing the same as Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling! Actually even a little less.

Still want to lose more, but I can now aspire to riding Bridget as I think she's about the same build and size as Janosch.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Our local community has started a Film Club. Yes, we are just that arty and cool. The Club shows Foreign Movies With Subtitles, Angst-Ridden Art Movies, and Offbeat Low Budget Indie Movies. It's all very Sundance at the Capitol Theatre on Friday nights.

Last Friday's offering was a German movie - The White Ribbon - written and directed by Michael Haneke (2009), and set in a small German village during the last year before World War I.  I don't like movies much, although I go often enough - for the fun of the excursion, for the feeling of anticipation as you sit waiting in the dark, and for the popcorn. But this movie was really worth watching for its own sake. If I had to give just one reason why it's so good, I'd say it's because - unlike most movies - it obeys the important injunction: show, don't tell.

Excellent though this movie might be, what - you might ask - does it have to do with matters equine? Apart from an unfortunate scene involving an injured horse, there's not much at first glance to connect the film to this blog. But synchronicity reared its head again in the shape of a congruity between one of the movie's themes and a comment recently left here by Jen-ska, wherein she quoted Ephesians 5:13: All condemned things are revealed under the light, and each thing, when it is made visible, itself turns into light.

I don't want to drop a spoiler and tell the whole story, as this movie is definitely worth seeing for yourself, so I'll try to skirt around the plot as I explain.

Jen-ska's comment was (if I interpret her correctly) in relation to my allowing George some latitude to express his negative feelings. One could argue that if his negative/angry/hostile impulses are slapped down as soon as they arise, they may not disappear but simply go underground and fester. If, on the other hand, we allow them to be seen and heard, in the atmosphere of fresh air and daylight they may come to seem not so scary after all. This is particularly the case when one considers that the impulses in themselves do not stem from anger or hostility, but rather that anger/hostility is the armour put on by fear when it strikes out into the open. If we meet that facade with anger of our own, then the horse's fear of us can trump his inner fear and make him "behave." However, we have then created an automaton.

If, on the other hand, we greet the anger with a quiet "hello," perhaps the underlying emotions can see that the coast is clear and peek out of hiding from behind their shield - perhaps the real horse can then emerge.

There is a character in The White Ribbon - a Lutheran pastor - who holds rigidly to what he considers to be the proper code of behaviour - for himself, his family, and his fellow-villagers. His white-knuckle adherence to this standard makes him unyielding to those under his authority. He extols the beauty of purity, forcing his children to wear the white ribbon of the title as a reminder of this virtue, and trivial infractions assume the proportions of major sins against God, to be mercilessly stamped out.

The problem for this pastor is that real evil is lurking within his village, showing itself in a series of mysterious, malicious acts. The perpetrators of these acts of violence remain undiscovered, until one day circumstances bring it within the pastor's purview to unearth the truth. At that moment, we see that the pastor is not really concerned with the truth at all but is afraid of it. When offered the opportunity to unveil the truth and to confront the evil, his courage fails him. He simply does not have the resources to face up to the danger of this discovery; all he has to guide him are the empty rules which mask his fear. (To what extent the evil is a product of his own failings, I will leave future viewers of the movie to find out for themselves.)

Because the pastor chooses the appearance of virtue over the genuine article, the real evil threatening his community remains in the dark, where it can grow in power and malevolence. There is a suggestion in the film that the horrors of the Nazi regime and the holocaust are rooted in this darkness - possibly in this very village. Perhaps this one man had it in his power to shine a light into that darkness and ultimately prevent global chaos. But he did not have the courage to confront the monster with light and bring it out into the open where it could itself "become light."

The movie does not portray the pastor as a caricature of a sadistic, cold-hearted man. There is another side of him, shown in his relationship to one of his younger children. This little boy has clearly been trained to treat his father as an autocratic ruler; but he has an innocent directness in his dealings with his father which disarms the man. He asks his father if he may keep and tend an injured bird he has found. The pastor agrees but extracts an agreement from the boy that he will release the bird to the wild when it has recovered. The movie does not return to the topic except briefly, later, when we observe that there must have been a re-negotiation, as the bird is still around - clearly it has been allowed to stay.

The pastor is not the only culprit in the film. The world he inhabits is one where mistakes are unforgiven and retribution automatic and swift. He has himself probably been raised in an atmosphere of brutality; he is both victim and perpetrator, son and father - horse and trainer.

The pastor lacks the tools which would have enabled him to face the truth - the same ones we need to face the truth within our horses and within ourselves: trust, love, faith, hope, courage - and a willingness to tolerate uncertainty as we wait for an unpredictable outcome. With horses, as with humans, I believe, attempting to impose control in an effort to "tame the beast" is ultimately fruitless. That is, if by "control" we mean the determination to dominate and dictate.

True control must, and does, come from within. All creatures have an inbuilt self-control - which allows them to adjust to their situation and act in their own best interests, as well as in the interests of their neighbours. True "purity" is a beautiful thing - an indwelling virtue, which (as the pastor rightly realizes) is a gift of childhood. The film shows several lovely scenes where snow covers the landscape. The white snow is unblemished and pure but is only a surface, blanketing what lies beneath. The pastor's purity is also merely a veneer, covering the chaos below. Or - let's give him credit - he truly loves purity, but he wishes to impose it from the outside, like a layer of snow. In his younger son, he is faced with true inner purity and is softened by it, dimly understanding that this purity is what is needful. His attempt to impose purity fails because he tries to force acceptance of this gift, instead of offering it freely. He fails also because he cannot admit his own weakness and fear, not knowing that weakness and fear are not themselves antithetical to purity, but only when they turn into anger and violence.

Just as I want my horse to lay his feelings on the table, so also I believe sometimes the best I can offer my horse is precisely my weakness and fear.  My inadequacies, standing their ground and showing their face, are a better gift than a false strength. Fear is not the same as cowardice, and to be weak is not the same as being manipulable.

The first thing that Adam and Eve do after the Fall is to hide, first from each other, and then from God - they run away into that darkness where the light cannot penetrate. I sometimes wonder if they hadn't hidden - what would have happened? Maybe all the consequences of the Fall could have been instantly erased.

There are, I'm sure, dark corners in my soul, many lurking secrets unwilling to be illuminated. But one thing our horses can do for us (and we for them) is give us the courage to face our fears, in the confident hope that by shining the light into the darkness, we may ourselves become light.