JOSHUA AND PRINCESS LOVE
PART ONE: IN THE BEGINNING
My name is Princess Love. I am a three-day event horse and this is my story. My life was planned even before I was born. Joshua had designed me with a specific goal in mind. He had very carefully selected who my mother and father would be. And with this plan in mind, I was conceived.
I was born on a cold day in March. Joshua visited my mother's stall many times that night watching my progress. Then, suddenly, I was born. My mother licked me and nuzzled me all over. That is when I met Joshua for the first time. He entered my mother's stall and with a towel rubbed me every where my mother had licked. I just lay there enjoying the attention. Joshua stood up and patted my mother's neck. "Well done, Daughter," he said. "We will call her Princess Love." My mother's name was Daughter Of The King and my father's name was Eternal Love. How fitting to be named Princess Love. Joshua was my owner because he owned my mother. He was to be my trainer, friend, and my loving master; but that would take time and much patience on his part.
My days were lazy at that time in my life. All I did was play with my mother, sleep, and eat. Joshua visited us every day, petting me and talking to me. I soon became very accustomed to his hand and even looked forward to his visits.
One day soon after I was born, Joshua put a halter on my head. My mother had a big halter on her head, so I didn't think much about it nor did I fight it. He attached leather ropes to both of our halters. As he led my mother around, I just naturally followed. This began my lessons of following wherever Joshua would lead me.
I grew fast during those days, as all young horses do. My days were filled with romp play in a rich, green pasture. Joshua was spending more time with me, walking me away from my mother and handling me always. But my life was full of fun and I hardly noticed the increase of his presence.
PART TWO: MY TRAINING BEGINS
One day I was moved from my mother. I never saw her again. This signaled a change in my life; one that I was not at all comfortable with. But Joshua was with me more often, and I soon adjusted to my new life.
Joshua brought many new things into my life at that time. Strange things that I had never seen before. I remember the day he put a saddle on my back for the first time. My back felt so strange. At first, I didn't like the weight of it; but with encouragement from Joshua, I accepted it and soon was oblivious to it. Very soon after that, Joshua put what is called a bridle on my head. For the first time, I had something in my mouth other than my teethe. The bit was cold, hard, and altogether distasteful. But for Joshua's kind assurances, I think I would have fought it more than I did. I had no sooner gotten used to these things, when Joshua started leaning on my back. I moved away from his weight because he was heavy, but he kept leaning on my back anyway. Then one day he sat on my back. I thought I could not bear it and sagged under him. He encouraged me to walk and, while walking, I soon adjusted to his weight. Before I was aware of it, I no longer sagged with his weight, but carried him along quite easily.
My training did not stop there, however. I had to learn to walk, trot, and canter WHEN Joshua signaled me. Most important, I had to stop when Joshua wanted me to. That was hard because I didn't always want to stop just then. Joshua's signals were broad at that time. I soon learned and recognized what he was asking of me. The routine was not hard and, in fact, I started to enjoy Joshua's riding me. He always encouraged me and gave me little love pats. So, I relaxed and enjoyed our daily excursions, not realizing that this was but the beginning.
PART THREE: MY INTERMEDIATE TRAINING
Joshua started to add things to our training routine. Slowly at first, so I hardly noticed the changes. Each maneuver built upon the previous one, which made learning them easier. The routines became very complicated. Had Joshua not trained me one step at a time, I would never have learned them. The more I practiced them, the more flexible I became. I could bend easier and make turns with a minimum of effort. I was also becoming stronger and having more control of my body; instead of my legs going everywhere, they were staying right under me where I needed them.
It was at this time that my training over obstacles began. Joshua took great care in this training. He wanted me to learn the right way, so that he would not have to retrain me later on. At first we worked over poles on the ground. These caused me to stretch and compact myself, depending on the spacing of the poles. This stretching and compacting was necessary for me to learn so I could be placed correctly to take each obstacle safely. It was Joshua's job to place me correctly for each obstacle; but if I couldn't stretch or compact myself, I would have to take off too soon or too late, using more energy than I needed to use and possibly hitting the fence. Hitting the fence is bad enough, painful as it is to the legs; but a hit can cause a fall, and that is worse. A fall can result in bruises, broken ones, or death.
Joshua introduced me to a wide variety of obstacles so that I would not fear anything that I might meet. The height and the breadth of these obstacles also increased. This tested my courage and built into me a strong determination to be obedient to whatever Joshua asked of me. My trust in Joshua's judgment was increasing daily. I learned that he was not going to ask of me more than I could handle, and that was comforting to know.
As my training progressed, Joshua entered me in several trials. These trials tested how well I learned my lessons. They were very fatiguing because they tested every aspect of my training in a short time. During a trial, Joshua would talk to me, urging me on. When I completed a trial, I always had a blessed time of rest in my green pasture at home. From these trials, Joshua learned what areas of my training needed improvement and where I needed further training.
PART FOUR: EVALUATION
Through every step of my training, Joshua watched me closely. He had a plan for my life. He had a goal for me to reach. But could I reach it? As I progressed in training, he evaluated my responses, my weaknesses, and my strengths. Then he determined if I could reach the goal he had for me. He knew me better than I knew myself. He knew what changes would have to take place in me if I was going to reach his goal. I was totally unaware of his plans for me until one day when he came to see me. "Princess Love," he said as he patted my neck, "you were designed to be a top-level eventer. You have done well on the level of training where you are, but now the real work begins. It will be hard on you; but trust me, I will see you through it." I wondered what he meant. It was normal for him to bring new things into my training routines. I had worked hard learning them, so I thought. I didn't know what to expect next.
PART FIVE: THE BREAKING
My training now turned from learning skills to learning submission. I had learned to obey Joshua because I was chastened for disobedience. I had learned that I could trust him, to a point. However, I had a mind of my own. I liked for Joshua to ride me but I liked it even better when I ran free in my pasture. When I was learning maneuvers, I had yielded my head to him, but not completely. I still controlled my will, and sometimes I would toss my head and let him know that I didn't want to do what he wanted me to do. To be a top-level eventer, Joshua would have to have my willing submission to his wants. He would have to control me and I would have to yield myself to him, placing my entire self into his hands. Standing in the way of this total submission was my desire for independence and my rebellious will. These things Joshua now set out to break.
These attitudes of mine showed themselves best when Joshua asked for an all out gallop. The freedom of running all out was so exciting to me that I wasn't attentive to Joshua's fine hand signals. He had to get heavy handed with me sometimes before I would surrender to his control. Because of this, Joshua devised a rather unorthodox means of breaking my resistance and forcing me to be dependent and attentive to his signals.
One day, after a very heavy rain, Joshua signal for a run; and off I went, not heeding his soft signals to go slow. Suddenly he signaled me to turn. I was going too fast to turn, but I tried to obey. I lost my balance and fell into a tall, lush stand of grass. It was a safe fall, but it shook me up. Joshua leaped free of me, and when I was down, he came to my head and leaned on my neck so I couldn't get up until he let me. I resisted lying there, kicking my legs and nickering at him. When my resistance stopped, he let me up. I stood up on very shaky legs. He walked me around until I was steady. Then he remounted and after a time signaled for another run. At first I heeded his signals, listening very attentively. But soon the excitement arose in me, and once again I was not listening for his signals. At an appropriate place, Joshua signaled me for a turn, which I could not make; and down I went for the second time. Again Joshua leaned on my neck, talking to me and assuring me that this was necessary. When he let me up, I was not the same. After walking me around, he remounted and again signaled for a run, but this time I listened to him and I have ever since. I had learned the cost of inattentiveness and I didn't want to pay it ever again.
Joshua had to rebuild my trust in him now, which he did by encouraging me and by blessing me with treats that I loved. I found the feel of his hands strange then. It was the same hands that had caused my falls, yet my safety rested in those very hands. Strange as it may seem, instead of resenting him, I found that he loved me. The more he touched me, the more secure and assured in his love for me I became.
Joshua now spent time polishing my attentiveness. Until, at last, he entered me in a top-level event trial. Would I live up to what he wanted of me?
PART SIX: FULFILLMENT
I was very excited on the first day of that trial. During the dressage test, I listened to every signal Joshua gave me, responding quickly to each maneuver called for. We scored very well and the thrill of pleasing Joshua, knowing that he was happy with me, gave me such a sense of peace. On the second day, we had the cross-country course. I had learned to trust Joshua's judgment, not only for placing me for the jumps but also for pacing me for the course. I let him control the pace and speeded up or slowed down at his command. When we completed the course, I knew that Joshua was pleased with me and it was very satisfying to me to please him. The last day of the trial is the stadium jumping course. I was tired after the cross-country course, but with Joshua in the saddle I knew I could continue, because I could trust his judgment. He knew if I was strong enough or not. He soon steadied me and we took every obstacle in stride, touching none, knocking down none. When we left the ring, I knew we had done well. We had earned the blue ribbon; but all the reward that I needed was Joshua's love pats which expressed his pleasure, love, and happiness to me. I had lived up to Joshua's goal and plan for my life. What more did I need? I had found my fulfillment doing what pleased Joshua. But more important than that, I had found love, for I knew that Joshua loved me and I knew that I loved him. He is my loving master and I am content.
First written in 1983, under the pen name of MIRIAM, author and illustrator, Jacqueline L. Davis
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