How To Get On A Horse When You’re Over 80

First, be sure you can get out of bed in the morning. If you can manage it by holding on to something with one hand only, you are okay. If you need two hands, it might be better not to ride.

Next, find a horse that is as old as you are. One year in a horse’s life is equivalent to about three years for a human. If you are over 80, you should consider any horse under 20 years old a wild colt.

Then ask how long it has been since the horse has been ridden. If no one has been on him in the past five years, the horse may have forgotten that he is supposed to put up with it. And he may not put up with you.

If possible, get someone else to get on the horse first. The young are immortal; get one of them.

Make friends with the horse while you are still on the ground. Pet him, feed him snacks, speak to him in reassuring tones. Reassuring for yourself, that is. It is always better to deceive the horse into thinking you are not nervous. You can’t really fool him, but if he sees you are trying, he may give you the benefit of the doubt.

Western saddles are heavy, but don’t even dream of using an English saddle. The first time a cowhorse saw one, the horse laugh was born.

Don’t try to throw the saddle over the horse’s back yourself. Never reveal your weakness to a horse you are going to ride. Bet a ten-year-old girl a dollar she can’t do it. Then pay up. It’s worth the money.

If you can put your left foot into the stirrup while standing on the ground, it is too low. You’ll never get your right leg over the saddle. Pull up something to stand on; preferably not a brightly colored metal drum decorated with waving feathers that goes “bong” when you stand on it. Find something that will not scare the horse any more than your demeanor has already.

Since the horse will certainly back up as soon as you stand on your mounting block, get someone to hold the horse. If no one volunteers to do that, back the horse up until he is almost touching the barn. Then, when he actually backs into the wall, be prepared for that to trigger him into taking off like a runner in the Kentucky Derby. Keep women and children out of the way.

Before attempting to actually mount the horse, see if you can lift your right knee high enough for your leg to make a right angle with your body. If not, you may have to get someone to lift the leg over the saddle for you. Get someone else to retrieve it on the other side of the horse and put it where it needs to be.

Talk like a cowboy. “Nice horsey” tells the horse you are a weirdo. Say, “Ho, boy,” when you want him to stand still, but make it sound like “Ho-bwah.” When you want him to move, say,

“Come up, hoss!” And sound like you expect him to do it. Holding a little gravel in your mouth helps.

(Putting a little Scotch in your mouth first also helps. But save some for after your ride; you’ll need it).

Don’t be surprised if the horse doesn’t want to leave the yard. Horses are herd animals; they don’t like to go anywhere by themselves. So if possible, get someone to ride with you. If you can’t, just lead another horse. When two is company, three is allowed. If they like each other, they’ll let you come along.

If the horse gives you any trouble, don’t fight it. No one tries to dominate a horse except fools and rodeo riders with good insurance policies, Or a death wish. Use diplomacy. Come to a mutually agreeable decision. The best decision is to decide it is agreeable to you to do what the horse wanted in the first place. Then you will both be happy.

There is a Scriptural foundation for this. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into the village ahead of you, and you will find a colt tied there that has never been ridden… They brought the colt to Jesus and he sat on it” (Mark 11:2). In Texas that makes Jesus a bronc rider! So perhaps we can paraphrase something else Jesus said about a king going to war (Luke 13:31) and make it read: “Or what rider, having trouble with a horse, will not consider whether he is able with his hundred-plus pounds of body weight to oppose an animal who comes against him with a thousand-plus pounds of bone and muscle? If he cannot, then, while the horse is still quiet, he uses his brains and looks for terms of peace.”

At the end of your ride, when you turn around to come back home, the horse will pick up speed. Make sure his enthusiasm doesn’t get him so carried away that they have to carry you away. Above all, do not let him run to the barn; he may get through the door, but you won’t.

To get off the horse, keep your left foot in the stirrup and both hands death-gripping the saddlehorn until your right leg clears the horse’s back. Don’t take for granted that it will. But if it does, quickly jerk your left foot out of the stirrup and free-fall to the ground. Expect your legs to give way when you land.

It’s okay. You won’t be able to use them for about three days anyway

Before you let the horse out, scratch his back well with a curry comb or stiff brush. You may not live long enough to get it back again, but if you do, he’ll still be there. You want his memory of you to be positive.

Riders have no expression like après-ski, but the French word for horse is cheval and that is close enough to Chivas Regal to suggest a happy ending.

Enjoy one!

Our Creed as Interpreted by Father David

We believe in one God, who is Father:

Who loves all of us as his children,

The sinners as well as the guiltless,

All nations, all orientations,

All cultures, all kinds of believers

Whose hearts are inspired by his Spirit.

We believe in the Son of the Father

Who “emptied himself” of his glory

To take flesh as human among us

And show us the way to fulfillment.

He shunned empty riches and status,

Using Truth and Love only as power.

He made friends with the weak and the sinful,

Giving hope to the dead and despairing.

He taught us the Truth as the Teacher,

Proclaimed what is Good as the Prophet,

As Priest he restored us to Oneness

With God as the Being of beings.

He uncovered the Beauty of Being

As the harmony of the Three Persons:

The Father as Source of all Goodness,

The Word as the Truth of his knowledge,

The Spirit of Love as their Oneness.

We believe that as Savior, though sinless,

He was “made to be sin” by accepting

Our sinful selves into his body.

Our sins were not only forgiven,

But “taken away” and forgotten,

Erased, blotted out of existence when

He died, because we were “in him.”

In his death we died and were buried.

And came back as God’s “new creation.”

Reborn, with no sins on our record.

When Christ rose, we rose to continue

His mission on earth as Messiah:

Anointed as prophets to witness,

Anointed to share in his priesthood,

Anointed as stewards of kingship

To establish his reign and extend it

Until he returns on the Last Day

To make all things perfect in triumph.

We believe in the gift of the Spirit

Who gives us the power to witness

To Jesus still living within us

Through a lifestyle surpassing the human.

We believe as a Church we are “holy,”

Not through good works or performance

But because of the indwelling presence

Of God and his Spirit within us.

We believe we are called to perfection,

To strive all our lives to surrender

And give Life expression in action.

We believe we are called to be open,

One with each other, embracing

The truth of all nations and cultures,

Accepting all faithful expressions

Of the Word that transcends every language.

We believe in the truth that was given

And passed on to us through “apostles,”

Around whom believers assembled

And assemble today as a body

United in teaching and worship,

Without the exclusion of others

Who believe, but with certain exceptions

That make our communion less perfect

But do not destroy or deny it.

We believe that this life is a waiting

During which we are called to be faithful

As stewards expecting their master

While working to build up his kingdom.

We believe in the Lamb that has conquered,

Who himself is the Bread of the banquet

Where Bridegroom and Bride are together,

And all who are called to the table,

Will live in the peace of the Kingdom,

Made totally one in the Spirit.

The Five Finger Prayer

1. The thumb is the key to grasping anything: without it we can’t use our hand as it was made to be used. So, use the thumb to remind you that Jesus is the key to everything you do. Unless you involve him, interact with him, you won’t be able to do anything as you should. The thumb reminds us that to be an authentic Christian, the “rule of thumb” that we should use in every decision is the teaching and example of Jesus the Savior.

2. The next finger is the index finger, the pointing finger. Remember that Jesus is the one who points the way. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And reflecting and praying over the Word of God, Scripture, is the principal way to get direction from him. So the second step toward being a complete Christian is to become a Disciple, a Christian who not only accepts Jesus as Savior but uses him as Teacher. A disciple is a student, a learner, someone who lives a life characterized by reflection on the message of Jesus. The second finger reminds us that Jesus is the one who points the way, and he does it primarily by preparing us to receive the inspirations of the Holy Spirit through reflection on the Scripture.

3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of leaders. It reminds us that each one of us is called to “stand tall” as a Christian — not out of pride, but with the humility of those who simply stand up for what they believe in because this is their duty; this is what they were consecrated by Baptism to do. If we stand up for what Jesus teaches us — for his values, his truth — we will stand tall, because his values are the highest. We will also stand alone in many cases, because not everyone accepts his values. This is what it means to be a Prophet: one who “professes” faith in Jesus, not through words only, but through actions. To be a prophet is to ask in everything we do, not just whether it is right or wrong, but whether it bears witness to the values of Jesus.

4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Automatically we think of wedding rings and of committed, lifegiving love. As Christians we are members of the body of Christ who gave his flesh for the life of the world. Jesus the Priest offered himself to everyone: not only on the cross, but at every moment of his life, in the constant ministry of trying to nurture people, and nurture the divine life of God in them, by his every word, gesture and action. Because we are “in Christ” we are also “priests in the Priest” and “victim in the Victim.” We “offered our bodies as a living sacrifice to God” at Baptism (Romans 12:1). We gave our flesh to be the body of Christ. Wherever our living bodies are, we are “sacrificed” to doing God’s will so that Jesus might act with us, in us and through us to give his life to the world. In practice, the key to this is simply to be loving to every person we meet. This is ministry; this is sacrifice; this is priesthood; this is to “give our flesh for the life of the world.”

Surprising to many is the fact that the ring finger is also our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us that Jesus did not save the world through power and force, but through love and the apparent weakness of letting himself be defeated and killed on the cross. Love is his power. Letting him love in us and through us is our power. To do this is to be united with Jesus the Priest.

5. And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all, which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "The least shall be the greatest among you." To be the least of all is to be the servant of all. We serve others as the servants of Christ. We are his servants; but we are responsible servants. He has made us responsible for establishing the reign of God over every area and activity of human life on earth. We are stewards of his kingship, whom “the master has put in charge of his household, to give to others their allowance of food at the proper time” (Matthew 24:45). As such we are to be the least of all, not seeking any special prestige, but we must take responsibility for our master’s business. This means we must keep trying to bring about prosperity, peace and justice on earth — for everyone. We must keep trying to transform society as stewards of the reign of God.

(This is a brief summary of the book Reaching Jesus — Five Steps to a Fuller Life, by David Knight, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1998. This summary was inspired by an email entitled “Five fingers of prayer” from Nathan & Amanda Gogel, which I received from David Stipp).