Sunday, February 07, 2010

White As Snow

Is More Coming? (Edited to correct spelling!!)

There is another storm coming from the West Coast. If it hits us, it will be mid-week. I hope I have places to put the stuff if I have to plow again. *sigh*

The minister of my church put a positive spin on the snow this morning in one of his prayers where he mentioned the idea of being cleansed white as snow...and how the snow reminds us of God's promise to forgive us for our sins. Even if you are not religious, the visual image can work, but what was interesting is that he mentioned later how some exchange students visiting from Africa who were here had seen snow for the first time in their lives. What a moment it was for them when they finally understood the Bible passage. Up until that moment, it was just words instead of a reality. Kinda cool...or cold, as the case may be.

It struck me that so often our verbal expressions depend upon assumptions of our audience's cultural background or life experiences to work. Back to the snow, for instance, how could someone ever really grasp, "blanket of snow," or "marshmallow topped fenceposts?" I use the marshmallow description mostly because it was in a literary worksheet I used with my students and some of them--even after living in New Jersey, couldn't quite get the picture the metaphor created. They had either never really noticed marshmallows or snow topped fenceposts, so they just didn't get it. Take it a step further to a person who has always lived in the tropics and not been exposed to many photographs or movies, and the entire image is completely lost.

How does all this relate to my horse blog? Those of us immersed in the world of horses all speak a fairly common language. Here and there are a few differences such as "rugs" vs "blankets" or "manege" vs. "arena" vs. "ring," but somehow we manage to understand each other.

But try to explain to the outside world how you were pleased your young horse took the correct lead, or how you chipped in at a fence, and you're usually rewarded with blank stares. Oh, they are often polite, but the glazed look in their eyes speaks volumes.

And even inside the horse world, some things are simply too hard to really explain. Even the best trainer may not be able to articulate exactly how to do a proper half halt, mostly because so much depends upon the horse's reactions to the rider's aids. Sure, the textbook tells you what to do, but how do you know the exact moment to release? How do you feel that the half halt has actually engaged the horse's hind end? What if Horse A needs only your seat, while Horse B really needs a potent rein aid?

The fact is, I keep hearing Lockie Richards's voice in my ear as I ride or try to help someone else ride. "Feel it?? Feel it??" Like snow, you never quite appreciate riding until you actually feel it.
It may be a blanket, but it's icy cold. It may be a half halt, but it can make a tremendous difference.

You really do have to see it and feel it to understand.


  1. A very thoughtful post spanning the world of language, faith and horses. The experience of riding "on the bit" is a mystery until it is achieved and then you know what you were striving for.
    Even between U.K. and American English: I had never heard the term posting (rising) trot or two-point (jumping position). If a horse is running away with you in Germany you make a noise like a phone used to make Brrrp, Brrrp (rolling off the front of your tongue). The run-away horse in France does not respond to the same and everyone thinks you're nuts. (been there, done that, by the way) Sigh.

  2. Anonymous3:18 PM

    Hope you weren't too badly affected by the snow. I think part of the reason the different horse disciplines have so much trouble sometimes speaking to one another is that different languages is used, when the feel we're all after is the same. And, as you so correctly point out, it's the feel that's important.

  3. English Rider, I use the German "chirp" to stop my horses. The cool thing is that I can make it into an almost silent "purr" in the show arena and no one knows except my horse and me.

  4. YOu have marshmEllows but we have marshmAllows. I never knew that before.


  5. Caroline, Uhm....BLUSH!! English teacher retired....we have marshMAllows too. I have failed my spelling test and repaired the damage. Thanks for the correction. I needed that. *sigh*

  6. Beautiful post! All your neurones are in working order ... sorry being a bit cheeky.

    However PLEASE it is manège!!! not ménage, It means a couple.

    I would not understand "marshmallow on the fence" either as we do not eat them, and our fencing (I bet) is quite different.

    I really relate to the feel on horse-riding. Nowadays my question to Saul are "what should I feel?" instead of "what should I do?".

    Great post!

  7. Muriel, I should have told you my French is horrible. Spelling noted and corrected. Thank you.

    I think I'll go hide somewhere now. *G*