The movie Black Beauty opens with the old horse content, lying in a green field and telling a classic tale of loss, sorrow, and redemption. “I remember everything,” Black Beauty says, bringing me to tears. I like to think that King remembers.
I know it’s just a children’s book, but I get emotional every time I think of his early days and subsequent losses and suffering.
Have you ever experienced a loss that’s so beyond avoidance that all you can do is open your hands in profound disappointment? Something that you still cry about if you think about it twenty years later? Letting go of Samuel was mine.
I wonder how Samuel, now King, would open his story. Our story.
Our story too is one of loss, sorrow, redemption, and ultimately faith. It’s about one horse and two women, one in California and the other in South Dakota. It’s about love, enduring connections, and of the faithfulness of a God who is not so distant and detached as the women may have believed. It’s a story of letting go and learning to trust one step at a time.
Bueno Chex Sam (Samuel) was the horse – disposition, conformation, and bloodlines – that I always dreamed of, but never thought I’d own. When he was a colt, I spent a lot of time with him on the ranch where he was raised. He fancied me too – he’d run to me when I called – but he wasn’t mine. Unfortunately, his owner hired a charro to break him who got on and began whipping him over and under. Sam bucked explosively, I’m told.
I bought him that night, but it was too late. The seed of mistrust had been planted. The colt class I sent him to further troubled him. He did ok for awhile, but a kid’s prank – he rode up next to the pretty girl riding Sam and slapped him on the butt – set Sam off. The girl hung on, lasting 17 bucks. But from then on, he was calculating and dangerous.
I had a rough start too. For years I carried a whole host of issues that I’ve spent years getting past. My mother complained I cared more about animals than people. She wasn’t far off. It was easier for me to trust and get along with dogs and horses than with people. People let you down, often on purpose.
Sam believed that too. After exhausting all options to get past it, I knew I’d never ride him. My bones break easily and I’m somewhere short of a hand. I wanted the best for my horse and I believed the best was with me. It wasn’t.
Sam didn’t trust anyone I sent him to. He went along until he figured out their weak spots and then ditched them. So I reluctantly gave him to a friend, who gave him to a trainer, who sold him to a ranch some place in Montana, I heard. Though I looked for him from time to time on the Internet, he had vanished.
I had a hard time believing he would make it without my intervention. I prayed he’d find someone he could trust, but knew that he was just a horse and God has more important things to worry about. I underestimated God’s faithfulness.
Twenty years would go by before I learned of Sam’s path to destiny but a few years ago I got a call from a woman in South Dakota. She has a horse she calls King – Sam – and my name is on his registration papers. He’s the best horse she’s ever owned, she said, and she tracked me down to find another like him. Sam comes from good stock – Bueno Chex, Doc’s Remedy, Fillinic. The woman who called, Dusty Heninger Kirk, knows cow horses and she loves that horse.
When she called all I could do was sob and tell her how my prayers for her horse had been answered. I think she was a little overwhelmed at first, but I couldn’t help myself. Twenty years of fear and mistrust had just been sent packing. God’s hand is on us and on this horse, I told her.
We traced him going from Merced to Gustine to Jordan Valley to Southeastern Idaho, and then to Colorado where Dusty bought him at a performance horse sale. Somewhere in there he sold at a bucking horse sale too. Most everyone who owned Sam was scared of him. Not Dusty. She was compelled to buy him. Compelled to love him.
She brought him home to South Dakota where they saw in each other something that allowed them to trust. When he figured Dusty out he liked who she was just as she was. She let him be who he was, didn’t try to dominate him – just asked and he responded. They won awards in roping and barrels. He has never bucked with her.
My Samuel was tormented and fearful. King’s content and at peace, home with Dusty.
Dusty’s call that day impacted my perception of who God is at a visceral level. I thought I trusted Him, but not with this. He had allowed me to be backed into a corner with no other alternative. I had to release Sam and trust God. And though after letting go I had no further influence save prayer, He gave Samuel a home and a new name – one that fits. I wouldn’t learn that for a very long time. I had to trust.
Our story isn’t about what noble, wonderful (or flawed) women we are, it’s not about what a woman of faith I was or am or ever will be, it’s about the faithfulness of God. If the God of the universe answered the cry of my heart for a home for my horse, if He compelled Dusty to buy him and later to call me, what are the limits of what God can or will do to redeem us if we allow it?
I don’t think there are any limits. The story of Samuel who became King assures me that I can trust. We can. He’s my home. No matter where I am, what faces me, or how much time passes, I can be safe and at peace with Him.
This is far from our entire story, though it’s the best part. Becoming whole is not a matter of a single epiphany or handful of experiences. It’s bigger than that. Dusty had a rough start too and like me she’s been schooled in trusting Someone bigger than both of us. I think we’ll tell those stories one day.
In the meantime, if I don’t share my thankfulness to Him for making a way for my horse and for teaching two women who love him about trust, I’ll surely burst.