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An Angelic Ride of a Lifetime

The inspiring story of a young girl, a horse and a mystical late-night adventure.

Rhona atop Sakie

“Ready to fly, girl?” I said, stroking the Arabian mare’s mane.

It was nighttime–pitch black. I’d just snuck out of the girls’ dorm at my boarding school. If I got caught I’d be in deep trouble. But sometimes a secret midnight ride on a horse, Sakie, pastured close to the school was the only way to clear my head.

At sixteen there was so much I couldn’t control. I felt somewhere in the middle of being an adult and a kid. Everyday life could seem downright scary.

My new boyfriend had broken up with me for another girl. I was nervous about a paper I’d just handed in to my favorite history teacher. But once Sakie and I were galloping along, flying through the night, everything was different. When we rode I was confident. I felt like I could take on the entire world.

I slipped a bridle over Sakie’s ears and led her along a familiar path toward an abandoned airstrip near the school. As we got close Sakie tossed her head and sidestepped. We always took our midnight rides here. She’d never acted this way before. Why was she nervous?

“Easy, girl,” I said into her ear. I scrambled up onto Sakie’s bare back and pulled her reins toward the airstrip. She broke into a trot. The darkness made it impossible to see, but we both knew the way by heart.

Once I could make out the wooden post that marked the beginning of the airstrip I kept a tight hold on Sakie’s reins while she danced in place. Sakie reared a bit–but this time she was excited, finally ready to charge down the strip like usual. I wanted to let her too, but now something didn’t feel right to me.

I tightened my grip on Sakie’s reins. I had ridden down this airstrip dozens of times. What was holding me back now? I couldn’t see anything wrong. I couldn’t see anything at all in the dark. That’s what made the airstrip so perfect.

Barreling into total darkness, I just had to trust that nothing could hurt me. And I did. Complete trust. So was I scared of midnight rides now too? Like I was scared of what the kids at school thought of me? Or my teachers?

No! I wouldn’t let my insecurities ruin this too. I dropped the reins and clenched my knees against Sakie’s side. “Hee-yah!” I yelled as she leaped forward. I wrapped my hands in her grey mane and held on tight as her hooves pounded the airstrip, galloping faster.

I leaned down low on Sakie’s back, the wind whipping through my hair. The old confidence I always felt on these midnight rides returned as Sakie and I flew through the night. There was nothing to stop us.

Then I thought I saw something up ahead. A mound of some sort barely visible in the dark. Like a big pile of…dirt? In a flash I remembered the construction workers I’d seen last week.

They’d dug a deep, wide trench across the airstrip. The dirt pile in front of us was as high as Sakie’s chest, and waiting on the other side was the trench. In my eagerness for a midnight ride I’d forgotten all about it. Now it was too late to stop!

Suddenly everything happened in slow motion: the pounding of Sakie’s hooves on the ground, the thudding of my heart within my chest. Dear Lord, we’re coming up on it!

Sakie had never jumped anything before. Would she slow down when she saw the dirt pile? Swerve at the last second? Either way we were headed for disaster.

What to pray for? I was certain we were both going to die. Closer…closer…I braced for the crash. Sakie, I’m so sorry. Sakie’s strong body rose up, lifting me with her as she took to the sky. I clutched her mane with both hands, watching. We seemed to hang in midair for an eternity.

We cleared the dirt pile, but the trench–I couldn’t bear it. I shut my eyes.

Sakie landed on firm ground. I bounced on her back as she stumbled. She quickly regained her footing and resumed her stride. I turned to look behind me. The trench had disappeared in the distance. We’d made it!

I tugged the reins gently to slow the horse down. I slid off her back when she came to a stop and tried to catch my breath. I walked her back around the trench and on to the stable. “How did you do that, girl?” I asked as I turned her out to pasture.

The next day I walked out to the airstrip and measured the length of Sakie’s jump. A little Arabian mare, who had never jumped anything in her life, had cleared a four-foot-high, nine-foot-wide, nearly invisible obstruction.

Was Sakie an angel in disguise, or had there been an angel looking out for Sakie and me on the abandoned airstrip that night? For some reason I felt complete trust barreling through the darkness.

But that seemed silly now. I’d put my trust in something real: the God who understands that I don’t always make the best choices. Instead of judging me, he’d rescued me.

There were plenty of challenges ahead. Life could still be scary. But I had a newfound confidence. A confidence that would stay with me long after I’d climbed down from a midnight ride with this angelic Arabian mare.

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