2022 Dressage For The Horse: An Educational Calendar

***Please note that following today’s post, I am taking a short blogger’s break. After celebrating the reason for the Christmas season, I plan to resume posting new content for The Backyard Horse Blog during the first week of January 2022! In the mean time, I expect to update the blog’s tagline, welcome & disclosure pages and add a new logo for a little fun. ***

Looking for a 2022 horse calendar? Even better, how about a calendar that doubles as a horsemanship manual?!

If so, you’ve got to check out this beautiful, functional and informative calendar with illustrations by graphic designer, Michelle Guillot.

Don’t ride dressage? Don’t let that stop you from exploring this calendar.

After all, basic dressage concepts are simply sound riding principals that can be applied to any riding discipline even if you have no interest in the sport of dressage itself.

Guillot’s illustrations make those basic riding concepts come to life with visually engaging pictures combined with straight forward, “to the point” text.

Each calendar month displays different ideas or concrete exercises that you can incorporate into your riding.

At that end of the year, I see myself separating the calendar pages and laminating my favorite pictures to incorporate into my riding binder where I keep horsemanship articles and journal-type notes about my horses.

I am so excited about receiving this calendar. The information it contains is seriously useful!

To purchase the calendar, go to the North American Western Dressage(NAWD)Store at

Store

If you prefer, at the NAWD Store, you can also purchase several of the month’s illustrations in a poster format. Display them on the walls at your barn! See the posters at https://www.northamericanwesterndressage.com/store/Educational-Posters-by-Michelle-Guillot-p400507035

This post is unsolicited and uncompensated by NAWD.

Have You Heard of Safe Landings?

News about innovative programs that help horses find new homes catch my eye. This, despite the fact, that I have so far kept all of the horses I have owned until death.

I also know that life can throw curve balls. All of us can get knocked off-course from our intended path with a one-two punch by a health concern, financial downturn, family issue, etc . . .

For these reasons, I think it important to keep my eye out for rehoming options in case I am not able to keep my horses in the future.

Safe Landings, hosted by the EQUUS Foundation, is one such rehoming platform. It acts as an information hub and connection point for folks looking to rehome their horses outside of the typical sale or auction situation. In fact, Safe Landings focuses on horse donation, something that isn’t widely talked about within many equestrian circles.

Horse folks may not realize that there are colleges, universities, camps, police units, equine assisted learning programs and therapeutic riding centers in need of horses to fulfill their program requirements.

Beyond the issue of awareness is the fact that finding the right match among the donating owner, the horse in question and the receiving organization is not always simple. Safe Landings seeks to make the process easier.

“Safe Landings is a new online platform featuring organizations that are looking for program horses to provide opportunities for horse owners, rescues, and transition centers to find homes for their equines in need of a next chapter.

For horses to remain an important part of American life and have a viable future, it’s imperative that we increase opportunities for horses to naturally transition from one career to the next without risk of abuse, neglect, and the threat of slaughter, and provide the means to retrain horses in transition to prepare them for these opportunities,” says Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President.

Safe Landings offers resources for horse owners who are unable to retain ownership of their horses with viable options other than sending horses to auction where they are likely to be purchased by “meat brokers” and sent to slaughter across our borders.”

-From the North West Horse Source Magazine November 2021 Issue

Safe Landings is hosted by the EQUUS Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote horse welfare and the horse-human bond.

According to a recent email I received from the EQUUS Foundation, their goals include “minimizing the conditions that lead to abuse and neglect, and the threat of slaughter by finding homes for at-risk horses and horses in transition, providing a safety net for owners enduring hardship to keep their horses, ensuring a safe haven for aged horses, and increasing opportunities for more horses to engage and partner with people in new and innovative ways.”

Designing the Safe Landings program is one way they are meeting their mission. Their website also contains many articles on what to consider when rehoming a horse. Things like asking questions about how horses are incorporated into a center’s program and what the center does when the donated horse no longer fits their program needs.

To learn more about the Safe Landings program and to see the list of collages, universities and other organizations currently looking for horse donations, go to

https://www.equusfoundation.org/next/next-chapter-display-quest.php

Book Review: Talking of Horses By Monica Enid Dickens

“Riding is a completed joy, so full of promises fulfilled. There is never a totally ‘bad ride’. There are days when you ride badly, or the horse doesn’t go so well, but there is always something to find out. Nothing stands still. You never know it all. You learn something each time, even if it’s only that you are not as good as you thought you were. The truth about riding is always there for you to discover all over again . . .”

From Talking of Horses (1973) by Monica Enid Dickens

I’d like to thank my riding instructor, Caroline, for loaning me her copy of the book Talking of Horses by Monica Dickens. I previously used a quote from the book for my most recent “Equine Illustrated Inspiration” blog-post edition. I did so without realizing that my riding instructor knew the author personally.

After Caroline saw my blog post, she asked if I would like to borrow her copy of the book. Turns out that many years ago, Caroline lived across the street from Monica Dickens. She would take her pony over to Ms. Dickens property to compete in gymkhana events that Dickens hosted. A small world moment!

I had read various quotes from the book but never the book in its entirety. As an avid reader, it is an exciting opportunity to be set up with a great read. Even more so to have the opportunity to turn that read into another blog post. 🙂

Talking of Horses was published in 1973. Due to its age, many readers may not be familiar with the book (or may not have even been born when it first launched).

All the same, if you enjoy reading older literature about horses, you may find this book quite interesting. Advice and opinions given in the book very much reflect the common equestrian thinking of the time, allowing the text to be a time capsule of sorts.

Some aspects of that thinking would be judged as inappropriate by today’s standards, but on the whole, I found the book relatable as a modern day horse-person.

For example, take the case of someone having trouble trailer-loading a horse. Suddenly, an entire crowd of people appear to “help” the stranded equestrian. This has happened to me and to some of my horse-friends. I smiled and nodded knowingly when Dickens described this experience happening to her more than fifty years ago!

My biggest reflection about the book is the level of joy and enthusiasm that the author communicates about horses. Feelings that resonate with most equestrians.

It is a timeless joy, this horse life. Lived by so many who came before us and hopefully lived by others when we ourselves are long gone. Definitely an experience not to be taken for granted or squandered by those who truly understand the wonder of horses.

Based on the many horse adventures described in the book, it is clear to me that Dickens lived her horse-life for all it was worth.

Horse Owners in Kentucky and Surrounding Tornado-Affected States

A huge line of powerful storms recently rolled through middle America, spawning tornadoes across six states.

Whenever I hear of disaster affected areas, I think of all the folks with animals. I hear of the struggles in coping with losses and providing continued daily care when their own health, safety and resources are at risk. Maybe no water, no power, no cell phone service. Barns, shelters, fences torn down. Hay, feed, equipment blown away or rained on. All while the pandemic continues.

In scouring the internet, I came across several resources for folks who are looking for horse-care assistance such as temporary housing, transportation out of an area or hay/feed.

If you are aware of other organizations or individuals that are offering assistance to horse owners, please add them in the comments section. As cell phone/internet service is restored, you never know who will stumble on this page in the quest to access resources. The more ideas the better.

Fleet of Angels
Fleet of Angles is most well-known for providing emergency transportation services for horse owners nationwide, but they also distribute money to those affected by disasters. Horse owners affected by the recent tornados can apply for emergency micro-grants to assist with horse care (like hay, repair materials, vet bills) at https://www.fleetofangels.org/.

Kentucky Equine Humane Society
Per a recent Facebook post on their page: “DO YOU NEED HELP FOR YOUR HORSES AFTER RECENT WEATHER DISASTER? If your pasture fencing has been destroyed or you need a temporary safe space for your horses after recent tornadoes that have swept across our state please contact Kentucky Humane Society about temporary sheltering options or a safe place for your horses. Our hearts go out to all those who have experienced loss or damage due to the recent storms and we would like to help horses in need if we can.”
Contact: Call our Horse Helpline: 502-272-1068 or email Horses@kyhumane.org

Heartland Equine Rescue in Southern Indiana
Heartland operates through a network of foster homes. According to their Facebook page, Heartland has already taken in two horses whose pasture shelter and fences were destroyed by tornados.
https://www.facebook.com/heartlandequinerescue/
https://heartlandequine.webs.com/
https://heartlandequine.webs.com/contact-us

This link is specifically for survivors with pets and animals. It comes from TV station, WPSD Local 6, serving western Kentucky, southern Illinois, southeast Missouri, and northwest Tennessee:
https://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/resources-to-help-tornado-survivors-with-pets-and-animals/article_eecf5bf8-5c9d-11ec-ae61-cfcdeae0ca9e.html

For ideas on how to help the wider communities impacted, this article from The Lexington Herald notes numerous organizations that are accepting volunteers, blood donations and money donations.
https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article256557261.html

The Rarely Ridden Horse

Rarely ridden horse. When I saw that description in the title of an online training article, I knew this was one piece I had to read! Especially as I head into yet another long, cold, wet Winter season.

While during six months of most years I am generally able to ride my at-home horses at least twice a week, the other six months I either don’t ride at all or inconsistently at best. Winter weather and the resulting footing conditions make it painful and/or downright dangerous for me to ride.

For a basically half of every year, my horses match the description of the “rarely ridden horse.” I hate that it is so, but it is a reality for me as it is for many others.

Your circumstances may be a bit different than mine. Maybe your work or school schedule keeps you out of the saddle. Health issues, family commitments and financial issues can all interfere too.

And let’s not forget the horses themselves. Sometimes due to age or certain physical conditions, it is not advisable to have our horses on a more traditional riding schedule.

Long story short, for whatever reason, we don’t give our horses the consistent riding that we would otherwise like.

The full title of the training article that caught my eye is “The Rarely Ridden Horse: Use these five strategies from our experts to keep your seldom-ridden horse tuned-up and connected with you”. It appears online at the Horse and Rider magazine website.

Whether or not you personally employ the particular training techniques/philosophies noted in the article sidebars, the ideas in the main text are flexible enough to allow riders to relate the spirit of the text to their own style of horsemanship.

Riders can utilize the article as a game plan to better structure and organize the precious few times they are in fact able to ride or do groundwork.

I also have to say that I just really like seeing this topic addressed. I don’t see it written about very often.

Most training articles come from the perspective of a rider/trainer who lives in an area with mild year-around weather or who has easy access to facilities that mitigate weather conditions like indoor arenas or outdoor areas with good footing. I think they forget that not everyone has these advantages that allow for a consistent riding schedule.

I also venture to guess that most are written with the assumption that the rider is working a younger horse who is sound/healthy. And yet, how many of us have horses who are older with at least some physical limitations? I have three of those right in my own backyard.

Sometimes I even think what I am reading in the articles would be damaging to my horses, considering their age/physical issues. I worry about folks, particularly those newer to the horse industry, being encouraged to push their horses past their limitations when they don’t realize the article wasn’t written with their twenty-two year old mount in mind.

Long story short, so many training articles just don’t address with any scale the realities of horse folks like me.

Nonetheless, I am still out there with my horses. I want to learn, grown and stay active with them, even with and within my personal limits and situational limitations. Even if it is not as often as or to the extent that I would like.

The article gives positive, realistic suggestions on how to do just that! So refreshing!

Do you too have a “rarely ridden horse?” If so, you can read the article for yourself here:

https://horseandrider.com/western-horse-training-tips/rarely-ridden-horse

Setting Horsemanship Goals And Themes: Racing Towards The End Of One Year and Preparing For The Next

Whoosh! Does my horse, Shiloh, know the end of the year is quickly approaching? He looks about as startled as I feel about how fast this year went. Did it seem to come around quickly for you too?

Seems strange that I am back here again, already reviewing this past year and thinking about the next.

During this yearly season, I reflect on what I’ve done in my horse life during the previous eleven months. I also start to think about what I would like to accomplish the next year.

I generally couch those thoughts in terms of goals.

I may not reach those goals. In fact, I often unfortunately don’t.

So why bother to set them, you might ask? Well, bottom line, I feel like I get further in my horse life when I set goals than when I do not.

With a destination in mind, my goals help orient me in my day to day work with horses, even if I rarely get as far as I want to.

I feel like if I don’t know what my overarching reason is for working with a particular horse that I just kind of flounder. Especially considering I mostly ride at home by myself.

It can be easy to get rather lost while riding and not be sure of what I am doing if I don’t make my motivations clear to myself.

The absence of the why of an activity, even an activity you enjoy, can lead to a lack of activity. A stagnation. I suspect this can lead to a loss of enjoyment and even a turning away from horses/riding.

So for me, I am a big fan of formulating specific goals. Whether riding my own horses in my backyard or while riding lesson horses at a nearby barn, I like to have an idea of what I am shooting for.

All my recent personal reflection will likely make it into some of my upcoming blog posts as the year wraps up and next year begins.

Today, though, I wanted to let readers know about a concept I recently learned about. I am sharing it in case it might be helpful as you do your own reflection and planning.

While recently looking through my email inbox, a subject title jumped out at me: “Yearly theme instead of goal?”.

It was the title to an email from trainer and clinician Stacy Westfall. You may remember the viral video of her riding bareback and bridleless during a freestyle reining class at the AQHA Congress in 2011.

The email included a link to Westfall’s recent podcast episode where she talks about setting themes for the year instead of goals.

I had never thought about that option so I was immediately intrigued.

Westfall goes on to talk about the reasons one might want to select a theme(s) and how to do so. She also gives several examples of themes and how to implement them. Themes like “the year of focus.” “The year of relationship.” “The year of less.” How interesting!

If you’d like to listen to the nineteen minute podcast, go to

While I expect to stick to formulating some measureable goals each year, I really like the idea of adding in a theme(s). I will definitley be giving it some thought.

How about you? Do you set horsemanship goals each year? Or if you like the idea of themes, what theme do you think would set a positive tone for your horsemanship next year?

Update: My Horses Give The Constant Comfort Block Two Thumbs Up (Or should that be four hooves up?)

Please note this post is unsolicited and uncompensated by Tribute Equine Nutrition

For anyone curious about how my horses like the Constant Comfort Block from Tribute Equine, here is your answer. My horses love it! All three of them.

If you missed my previous post describing the block, please read it here at

Have you seen the Constant Comfort Block?

I wrote in the post that I was saving the block to put out during Winter time. Well, Winter in my area is here so I put out the first block last week inside an extra salt block holder that I had available.

This photo shows the block after about four days of use from the three horses. Looks messy, I know, but as the horses lick and nibble on the block, it becomes crumbly.

Anyone who has seen horses eat knows that the bits and pieces that fall from their mouths tend to go everywhere. On the ground. On a nearby wall. Mushed into their whiskers. All over you when they eat and sneeze at the same time.

Anywho, the first day I put the block out for my herd, I saw each of the horses spend about 5 to 10 minutes licking it within the first hour. I first thought I might have to take the block away due to their eagerness. Tribute Equine’s website info about the product does suggest that you should watch for over-consumption. It states that the target consumption rate per horse is 12 ounces per day.

After the first day, the horses’ interest seemed to level to a more reasonable amount. The block was completely consumed within a week. I came out one morning to see the salt block holder was empty and licked clean.

Now, I have to say that I don’t consider any of my horses to be picky-eaters. So maybe all this post tells you is that my three horses with healthy appetites like the block. Just to garner a little more “palatability review cred,” I will point out that all my horses are eighteen and older, including Bear who at twenty-six has become a bit more finicky with age.

Now, does all that mean YOUR horses will like the block? And does it mean that the horses (yours or mine) will get the gut-health benefits from the block that it purports? I don’t know.

I will say though that with a price of $10 each (or $5 each if you can still find the BOGO offer I described in my other Constant Comfort Block post), it seems like a reasonable product to try. Especially if your horse does suffer from known gut-health issues, I would think it worth asking your veterinarian if the block might have a part to play in your overall strategy to keep your horse feeling better.

Oh, and don’t forget about the Constant Comfort Sweepstakes that runs through December 31st, 2021. You can win a year’s supply of Constant Comfort feed and blocks! Read my post about it below at

Enter Tribute Equine’s Constant Comfortâ„¢ Sweepstakes- Now through December 31st, 2021!

Announcing The Buck Channel

If you enjoy learning from Buck Brannaman, you might find the upcoming The Buck Channel of interest!

Brannaman is a famous horse trainer and clinician, promoting the California vaquero style of horsemanship. His own horsemanship mentors include the also famous Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance.

No surprise that I have not ridden in one of his clinics, but I read his book The Faraway Horses and have seen his articles in Eclectic Horseman Magazine. I have also viewed the Seven Clinics with Buck Brannaman DVD set.

In a recent Eclectic Horseman Magazine article (that I underlined and highlighted as seen in the above photo), the author quotes Brannaman about the impetus for creating the channel.

“I’ve always been bit of a dinosaur about technology and social media,” says Buck, “but after last year, when I couldn’t do what I’ve been doing for 40 years, I thought it’s possible that my life working as I know it is over. And then I thought, if that was the case, what did I leave behind.” —-From article appearing in the Nov/Dec 2021 issue of Eclectic Horseman “A New Way to Learn From Buck” by Emily Kitching

Video content will reflect a continuum of rider levels from rank beginner to advanced, long time riders. As the article continues, Brannman describes the channel format.

“Rather than filming full-length videos, which do have their place, with this you might be sitting on your horse, thinking ‘How do I back a circle?’ I’m missing something here.’ Well, then you can go to The Buck Channel, scroll down the list of videos, find backing circles. Watch it for 5 minutes while you’re sitting on your horse, put your phone in your pocket and say “Thanks Buck” and then you have your answer.”

The channel is not up and running as of this writing, although hopefully it will be soon. There is no information yet regarding pricing. The channel website currently states that interested horseman can email the channel to ask Buck a question that he might choose to later answer through the video topics. I like the idea of being able to potentially help shape future content!

If you are interested, the email address is contact@thebuckchannel.com, and the channel website is http://www.thebuckchannel.com/.

Horse-Care-in-Cold-Climates Round Up (plus something for those of you still dealing with flies)

In my neck of the woods, I am at the start of an annual Winter season that holds mostly cold, clouds, rain, ice and snow. Lots of swings between frozen ground and mud too. All this takes place over a long five months.

Winter holds plenty of horse care and riding challenges for me. Challenges that result in my riding far less often than I would like. Challenges where I find myself constantly battling the elements while feeling stiff, sore and exhausted. With painfully frozen fingers too.

Fortunately, Winter also holds moments of beauty and delight too. Like the sight of my horses’ warm breath blowing into the cold air. Or the feel of their thick, wooly coats (at least when I can stand the cold enough to take off my gloves). And then there’s the fun of riding bareback through freshly fallen snow.

For those of you who experience a similar season, I have compiled a “Winter Roundup” of a few previous Winter posts with corresponding Pinterest pins. Hopefully you can find a useful tip or hint among them to apply to your own cold weather situation.

Six Ideas For What To Do If You Can’t Ride During Winter (A Guest Blog Post that I wrote for the Savvy Horsewoman Blog)
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/12/09/cant-ride-during-winter-six-ideas-for-what-to-do-instead/

The Beauty of Horses in Snow
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/02/17/the-good-about-backyard-horse-keeping-in-winter-snow/

Winter Barn Hack: Extending The Life of Disposable Hand Warmers
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/06/winter-barn-hack-making-those-hand-warmers-last-longer/

Does Your Horse Wear A Grazing Muzzle During Winter?
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/02/05/does-your-horse-wear-a-grazing-muzzle-during-winter/

Winter Barn Hack: Help For The Reluctant Hay Eater
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/02/17/ever-had-your-horses-reject-their-hay/

Fun and Festive Winter Horse-Craft
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/12/28/fun-and-festive-craft-for-winter/

While I know that readers on the other side of the world from me are experiencing warm weather, there are some right here in my own country who are still dealing with flies too. So here is something you might find more applicable. An Absorbine fly spray rebate!

The offer is for Absorbine’s Ultra Shield Ex, Green, Red and Sport (gallon size bottles only). It is a $10 rebate offer for every gallon you purchase. Up to 10 gallons.

I received several of these rebates earlier this year so I know that the offer is legitimate. The trick is that you have to find gallons to purchase that already come with the little rebate tag attached.

This year, I purchased gallons from two different retailers and received the tags on both. I have also seen the gallons with the rebate tags at my local Tractor Supply Company store. But if you are purchasing your gallons online, I suggest checking with the seller to ask if they have those rebate tags on their gallons. If you want to see a sample of what the rebate tags look like (I already mailed all of mine in so I don’t have one to show you), here is an image of it that I found on http://www.pbsanimalhealth.com under their rebates and promotions section (please note their “click for details button” does not work here on The Back Yard Horse Blog):

It does take quite awhile to receive the rebate once you mail it in. I think mine each took like two to three months. If you want to save money on postage, wait until you purchase all your fly spray gallons for the year and mail them in all at once. The $10 rebate is issued on a debit card like this one below:

The Absorbine rebate offer runs through 12/31/22 with a limit of 10 rebates per household (you may note that the image taken from the PBS Animal Health website leads with the offer ending 12/21/21, but if you read the actual details on the image, it states that the offer runs through 12/31/22). That means for those of us who won’t be purchasing more fly spray until next April/May, there’s still time to take advantage.

I have made a note on my 2022 calendar to look for those gallons with the rebate tags again when I am ready to buy in the Spring. What does that say about me that I am actually looking forward to having to purchase fly spray again?

A Take On Rider Perfectionism and Failure

“Perfectionism is the biggest factor that holds my students back from making progress with their horses . . . People really care about their horses and are very detail-oriented in their desire to improve themselves and help their horses. In this effort, they can become paralyzed by perfectionism. They don’t want to take “messy action,” as I like to call it, and that causes sneaky patterns to appear.”- Madison Shambaugh

It doesn’t matter who you are. Sure, it looks and feel different to each of us. But whatever wording you want to use. Whatever it looks like for you. Whatever value and meaning you place on it. I venture to guess that all of us horse people have failed, messed up, or underperformed in some way.

For that reason, maybe this quote jumped out at you the same way it did to me? I have really enjoyed following the quote’s author, Madison Shambaugh, over the years. Her natural horse skill is admirable. Likewise her quest to bring attention to the many issues involving mustangs. Hence her moniker “Mustang Maddy.”

What is especially interesting to me is her quest for continual self-improvement, even as a highly skilled equestrian. I wrote about that issue in a post last year at

An Example of Growth and Change in The Horse Industry

Today, I wanted to share a link to a more recent Mustang Maddy interview that writer Jennifer Paulson published with Horse and Rider. It is where I found the above quote. You would think that with Madison’s level of success and interest in learning that she would be a perfectionist. But this article shows that Madison has an interesting perspective on the subject.

Some of the phrasing in the article really jumped out at me. Concepts like “taking messy action” and the word “fail” standing for a “faithful attempt in learning” are encouraging to those of us who have ever felt “less than” in our horsemanship or riding skills. Reached for a goal and fallen short.

If you’d like to read the article for yourself, head over to the following link at Horse and Rider magazine at

https://horseandrider.com/blog/heres-why-being-a-perfectionist-with-your-horse-wont-work

While changing our perspectives on the issue of perfectionism or fear of failure doesn’t make it any less likely that we will fail in our horse goals, I think it can help us cope with the mental fall out.

I know it’s easy to look around you (or down at that little device you are holding in your hand) and feel like everyone else is a conqueror on horseback while you are struggling to just put a halter on your hard-to-catch-horse in the pasture.

Those uber-awesome horsemen certainly do exist. If we can put aside any feelings of intimidation or jealousy, there’s certainly lots to be learned from them. But I also know it can be hard for many of us to relate to their level of skill when that question in our minds linger. That question something to the effect of “why her and not me?”

Why is she getting her own horse, winning the accolades, heading down the trail or progressing through the levels, but I am not?

I know I have often felt something akin to grief over not being the highly skilled horseperson I would otherwise like to be. Watching other folks be the rider I once hoped to become, while I am in the saddle year after year still trying to master the basics in my middle age? Well, let’s just say it can get discouraging.

Despite my own understanding of falling short, I feel sad when I hear of folks leaving the horse industry because they have not gotten as far as originally planned. Some might argue that their decision is due to disappointment, not perfectionism or fear of failure. Yet I wonder if all those emotions are not just different parts of the same puzzle that lead to the same result?

Do we sometimes need to adjust our goals? Take a bit of a different path than we originally planned? Scale back? Get some help? BE WILLING to fail? Sure. But if you decide that including horses in your life is really what you want to do, please don’t let the fear of failure stop you from at least trying to continue.

Yes, there is the real risk that you may not ever get as far as you want to. But you won’t know how far you can go if you don’t give it a shot.

Don’t just take it from me. Take it from Mustang Maddy.

From Balaam’s Donkey to The Brooke: Thinking about Working Donkeys During This Holiday Season

Photo of The Brooke’s suggested donkey crafts. Taken from http://www.thebrooke.org/knitandcraft

Both as a Christian believer and an animal enthusiast, I am drawn to the numerous mentions of donkeys in the Bible. Whenever I hear the words “working donkey,” the story of Balaam’s donkey often pops into my head.

The passages including Balaam’s donkey are found in the book of Numbers. Numbers is the fourth of the five books of the Jewish Torah and recognized by Christians as part of the Old Testament. Even if you are not of the Jewish or Christian faiths, you might still find the passage as intriguing as I do.

On a related note, I want to take a moment to say that I hope for a Hanukkah filled with peace and light for my Jewish readers celebrating this week. Happy Hanukkah!

If you’d like to read this particular donkey narrative and don’t have a Bible handy, you can go to https://biblehub.com/niv/numbers/22.htm and head down to verses 21 to 33.

As with most texts, religious or secular, there are numerous varied interpretations. There is also a lot of context involved. Balaam’s history of his involvement with the Jewish people, specifically his attempt to curse the Israelites, goes far beyond this one narrative. It definitely surpasses the scope of this post.

But my personal take away from this passage is that God worked through an animal to surprise, humble and redirect Balaam. And I find that idea fascinating.

I know in my own life that I continually learn about myself and absorb life lessons through and in relationship to animals. Sometimes I like what I see and learn about my myself. Sometimes I don’t.

I also see that Balaam’s reaction to his donkey’s behavior revealed this man’s flawed heart. Perhaps in a way that only an animal could. Balaam lost his temper and took out his frustration on his donkey.

While I have not had an angel of The Lord stand in my path (as far as I know), I have often heard that still small inner voice. It tells me when I am not reacting well to a particular situation with one of my animals and that I need to change course. I’ve also wondered how many times I misinterpreted an animal’s actions, just as Balaam did.

Whatever you may make of this narrative, Balaam’s donkey fits the description of a working donkey. But the text describing this pair may likely be less familiar to most people than all the working donkey images appearing around Christmas. Donkeys being ridden, packed and driven.

Interestingly, there is no mention of a donkey in the Bible passages involving the birth of Jesus. Some of our Christmas imagery and traditions are not technically scriptural. But considering all the working donkeys of that age, it is not much of a stretch to think there was a donkey hanging out nearby during the time of Christ’s birth.

In any case, all that leads me to the current Christian season of Advent, with Christmas being the most famous day therein. When I found out that the organization the Brooke was offering an interesting way to bring attention to donkeys during this season, I couldn’t help but smile.

Readers may have noticed that I mentioned Brooke USA as part of my Giving Tuesday post. The Brooke in the UK and Brooke USA work to support the millions of working animals worldwide and the families that rely on them for their very survival. If there is a prominent face of working animals, both in current and Biblical times, the donkey must be at or near the top of the list.

The Brooke is currently offering a free, 32 page download of donkey crafts. The download includes a list of needed materials, instructions and pictures. The crafts range from simple to more complex. They look like so much fun!

The Brooke is hoping that as folks makes these crafts that they will share the story of working donkeys in an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding working animals and their people. What a neat idea!

To get your free download, go to

https://www.thebrooke.org/get-involved/fundraise/your-christmas-craft-pack/

You will notice that while the download is free, The Brooke asks that you consider making a donation. Because The Brooke is UK based, it asks for donations in British Pounds. I wasn’t sure about credit card charges for currency exchange and the like so I declined to donate (and still got my free download).

Instead, I headed over to Brooke USA website and made a donation to them. In the notes section of their donation page, I told them that I was making this donation because I received the free download from their mother organization. Just suggesting this as a possible option for readers who would also like to donate, but to donate in US dollars, not British pounds. Go to

https://www.brookeusa.org/

If you do end up making a donkey craft, The Brooke hopes you will share your creations on social media with links to the Brooke so more people can learn about working animals and their families. A creative way to help donkeys get their due. I’d like to think that Balaam’s donkey would approve.