Did she really say that? Yes, she did. I had to ponder that for several days.
Our granddaughter, Chloe, was nine years old on the day I first heard it. With her parent’s blessing, her Aunt Cathy had arranged a special birthday treat with Aunt Pat, who has two horses. Chloe and her cousins were going to get to ride a horse. Adult cousin Erin would ride with them or walk alongside them.
There was more than riding. They groomed the horse, painted the hooves, stroked his nose, fed him treats, then rode him around an enclosed track. The children were mesmerized. They relished their new experiences. Smiles told it all. They were proud of their accomplishments.
Riser is a 1600 pound gentle giant. A nine-year-old might be afraid to mount such a massive animal. But, with help, Chloe bravely climbed aboard as did her cousins.
After her ride, Chloe and I talked about her adventure. Her cousin, Erin, walked beside her and told Chloe things about the horse she was riding. One horse-fact clearly impressed Chloe. “The horse can smell your fear,” Chloe told me. Her eyes showed her amazement.
It was a comment I couldn’t shake off either. I had to share it with adult family members gathered for this unique occasion.
Fear is so powerful a horse can smell it?
With some reading, I learned that fear may cause humans to excrete something through our pores that a horse smells. Or our fearful posture, jerkiness, hesitancies or standing at a distance may be a giveaway. However, the horse senses fear.
This new information affected me because it reminded me that fear is a powerful emotion, so real horses perceive it. As a child, I feared water. I creatively avoided swimming lessons, particularly on days we were to jump in the deep end of the pool. With that fear conquered, fear pops up in me for varied reasons. Fear of snakes. Fear of confronting someone about something. Fear of medical test results. Fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of consequences from the right decision. Fear of speaking on a controversial subject. Fear that someone will resist a conversation about faith, maybe angrily end all discussions with me, simply because I brought it up. The list goes on.
When we first arrived that day, we walked along the stalls and admired the horses boarded there, and I held our three-year-old great-granddaughter. As the horses stretched their necks toward us Nora reared backward. I invited her to touch the horse’s nose. A definite no. So I said to her, “put your hand on mine.” Then I touched the horse’s nose, and that broke the ice. She touched the horse’s nose on her own. Soon, she giggled as she let a horse eat treats from her hand. Fear overcome is rewarding.
It’s never wise to naively ignore legitimate danger. Fear is an authentic emotion God has given us for our protection. Rarely, however, is it life-threatening fears that rob us of the fun of new experiences or the satisfaction of resolving something we are afraid to deal with. Far more common it’s a lesser fear that steals our pleasure.
God, too, invites us to put our hand on his, as it were, and quietly trust that he goes before us. The prophet Isaiah reminded us of God’s care as he spoke for God, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).
Fear can be potent and necessary at times. God’s presence is also potent, and it’s needed at all times.