Dressage and Discipleship

lipizzaners.gifI recently won four tickets from our local CBS affiliate to attend the “World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions” in a venue in downtown Denver.  I, of course, was glad to have won but a little suspect of what the show was all about.  My senior pastor and his wife accompanied Deborah and I to the event last night.

My suspicions grew as we pulled into the parking lot and noticed only a small number of cars in the parking lot.  Since we were not incredibly early for the event, I wondered if the show was any good at all.  Well, I consoled myself, I’m here with friends.  The conversation would, at least, be enjoyable!

At the appointed hour, the lights dimmed, the music swelled, and all one thousand of us in this twenty thousand seat venue cheered with approval.  Six white stallions trotted out from backstage onto a red carpet.  The show would go on!

Now, I must preface these next remarks with this: I have had no little exposure to horses in the past four years.  Three of my children have had membership and training with the Westernaires organization.  The Westernaires is a mounted precision drill organization for children from age nine through high school.  They have provided training in Western riding, precision drills and horse for over fifty years.  Each year, the Westernaires put on a huge show in our big rodeo venue downtown.  I have been to several of these shows.  They are quite remarkable.  I have also had the privilege of watching the Royal Canadian Mounties in performance with the Westernaires last year.  They are incredible.

Okay, having said that, the Lipizzaner Stallions were quite good.  Not quite as good as the Mounties.  Not nearly as fast as the Westernaires.  But they have their own uniqueness (which would best be tolerated in a lively, morning show–not the 7 PM Saturday night show).  The horses have a rich history and I learned a great deal from the show’s narrator.  It is worth seeing at least once.

To understand the Lipizzaner tradition, which is celebrating 36 years in 2006, one must understand a French term called dressage.  Dressage is defined as the guiding of a horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of the rider’s hands, legs, and weight.  That, my friends, is exactly the wonder of the Lipizzaners.  There are no cracking of whips.  There is no bucking horse, out of control.  There is only the soft and submissive interaction between the horse and its trainer.  It is beautiful to observe.

As my mind often does, my thoughts began to wander in the second half of the show.  How do the Lipizzaner Stallions symbolize the Christian life?  (Okay, it was late; I was tired!)  Well, believe it or not, I have a few thoughts to share with you all.

1. There is a remarkable story of redemption.  Not unlike ourselves, the Lipizzaners were once highly valued by their owners, the rulers of Europe.  They were placed in beautiful surroundings and extravagantly pampered.  Then, during the Second World War, the Nazis horsenapped many of these precious beings and kept them in bondage.  When a certain American General named George Patton heard of their sad state, he took authority not given to him, mobilized several hundred American troops and liberated the horses.  If you want to find out more, a 1963 Disney film called “The Miracle of the White Stallions” can fill in all the details.  It is a great story of rescue and salvation.

2. There is a dedication to discipleship.  Although some of the horses are more gifted than others, on the average a horse must train for 6-9 years before being allowed to perform in the show.  Each horse trains no more and no less than 45 minutes each day for those 6-9 years.

3. There is an absolute submission to authority.  These horses know very well that they “are not their own.”  While the Lipizzaner stallion is one of the more aggressive horse breeds, the long-term training pays off in complete submission.  As was mentioned earlier in the dressage paragraph, the horses respond to quiet and nearly invisible movements of the rider’s hand and legs or the shifting of weight in the saddle.

Well, the moral of this absurd article is absurdly simple: should we not much more demonstrate gratefulness to our Redeemer, dedication in the equipping of the saints, and complete submission to the Holy Spirit than horses who have no eternal worth?


3 responses to this post.

  1. This is a nice way of trying to put a nice touch on taking your Senior Pastor out to a complete bomb the night before he has to preach:)


  2. I did warn him, Jay. Honest! Actually he like it!


  3. Brian,
    6-9 years of training for 45 mins a day. And this is practical, literally hands-on. That’s a great insight on discipleship. We (my co-laborers) often comment on how much face-time the disciples had with Jesus Himself. Imagine if we could do that with disciples. It might take 6-9 years or even more – but too often we want quick converts and quick disciples over fast food. Could we have the patience and dedication to work-out our salvation into the garden of another’s life for that duration? I think Jesus did — that much time in 3 years with 12 malcontents. By the way, nice theme… reminds me of something — http://vision.smgroup.info


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