After being thrown by her horse, Laurie Brock received that counsel from her riding instructor, a story she tells in Horses Speak of God: How Horses Can Teach Us to Listen and Be Transformed (Paraclete Press, 2018).
“Sit deeply and ride.”
I’m not a horse person. They are beautiful; that’s a fact. I rode horses on a family friend’s farm as a child and loved the experience, but I later had a scare at a riding lesson and never rode again. All this is to say I picked up Laurie’s book not even knowing how limited my knowledge of riding is. I appreciated the way she described the specifics of gaits and gear, as well as the temperaments of horses broadly and the horses she rides in particular.
Brock is an Episcopal priest and writes about her development as both a minister and a rider, here in a chapter on Fear, in which she describes the aftermath of being thrown by her horse, Nina. Just as she gets back on the horse, Brock encourages us to persist in faith.
When God meets us in our relationship and says, “Fear not,” God isn’t telling us to act as if we aren’t scared. Instead, God reminds us that fear will not be the only emotion or the conclusive one. When we are scared and fearful, we join a long line of faithful disciples who responded initially with fear, but stayed around. (p. 39)
In a chapter on vocation, Brock describes Nina’s role as a great teaching horse for riders who are new, and the instructor who recognized “she is an amazing lesson horse.”
Our vocations, our calls from God, work almost the same way. We experiment, perhaps discovering both what we are suited for and even what we are not called to do. We will need insight from others. Usually others can see our vocation before we can. Others can also see what might not be our vocation before we admit that we might not be suited for this particular ministry of God. (p. 45)
Brock’s book centers the reader in the necessity of balance and breath, routine and repetition, in our physical existence and our spiritual lives as well. Her relationships with Nina and the other horses she rides, grooms, and loves speak to our relationship with both the embodied and the transcendent. In the world of riding, some actions feel intuitive, while others require us to do what seems strange. We cannot grow without persistent practice, whether as riders or people of faith. It is not enough to approach our incarnate God with our intellect. Will we show up to meet God the way Brock settles on her horse, ready to move together, to be as one?
I recommend this wonderful book to both horse-lovers and far off-admirers like me. Horses speak of God, and so does Laurie Brock.
I received an advance manuscript of Laurie’s book and wrote an endorsement, as well as this review.