I met God at an Arena


“Would God really be at a horse arena? The answer, without a doubt is yes.”

-Vanessa Nicholson

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the phrase, “Horse Whisperer” before. Perhaps your mind wanders to a “Flicka” like moment when a horse and rider become one –remember to include the heart string pulling soundtrack provided. On the other hand, you might recall rough riding and a ****struggle/ of the wills. However, I would wager that you’ve never experienced a horse event like this, at least I didn’t.

Late September I was notified of this Horse Whispering event. Originally I was supposed to cover it for JudsonNOW as well as to publicize the Equine Department. I, being a novice horse person, “a greenhorn” as it were, was very intrigued by the opportunity to attend. It was to be held on Judson’s Campus just down the hill at our own barn. The event would be held at 6 p.m. on September 21st.  The concessions would benefit according to the email, “brand new Judson College chapter of the

American Collegiate Horseman Association.”

Unbeknownst to me, many things were coming together to make this event something unlike what I had ever witnessed before. Pastor John, head pastor of Siloam had canceled Wednesday night services so that his church congregation might be able to attend. Personally, I thought this was curious but thought nothing more of it. From what I’ve gathered, thanks to Mrs. Jennifer Hoggle, this event was the birth child of the Cahaba Baptist Association and Mr. Bill Wallace “in an effort to bring an evangelical opportunity to our area in hopes of reaching people in our communities.” Unfortunately, “Brother Bill” (as he was known by the community) passed away before the actual event could take place. And I would be amiss not to add the numerous amount of prayers that were offered up.

The faces of young, old, students and community members alike lined up to see a young colt (aptly named) Pistol make his entrance into the little round pen. As the horse wrangler began to speak, I realized that this wouldn’t be any ordinary rodeo. He spoke about the horse as a reflection of our own human condition in relationship to God. As the wrangler waited for the horse to simply look at him, so God waits for us to simply look at Him. Each lesson the young horse learned could be compared to our relationship with God.

Within the hour there was an altar call of sorts. The saddle with what the young colt had finally submitted to was laid in the middle of the round pen. Those who were tired of running away were offered a space to come and finally give anything and all to God, right there in the middle of a round pen. People slowly began to trickle into this round pen. It was intriguing to see the dynamic of strangers and friends sharing in this experience and praying for one another. For many people, this was where there relationship was renewed.

I asked Mrs. Vanessa Nicholson what she would have people learn about this event. What would she have students take away? She provided me with this insightful answer. “God is at work everywhere, all the time… Location is never a barrier to God and His work.  He can use all situations, environments, and events to show Himself.”

On a personal note, I understand this article is a little different from most. But I feel as though this event needed to be covered in a different light, with a different voice. With that said, this event (which I had originally expected to be about horsemanship) was undoubtedly unique and one that I won’t readily forget. Personally, I was faced with the condition of my own heart. At to this day, this event makes me continually wonder, am I willing to let God have control? But enough about me, I would like to leave you with a personal testimony.

There was a young man from Siloam that attended the Horse Whisperer event. He pointed over to the far side of the horse arena and said, “This is where my relationship with the Lord began.” He had attended Cowboy Church at the arena 2 years ago. Would God really be at a horse arena? The answer, without a doubt is yes.

Thanks to Mrs. Hoggle and Mrs. Nicholson for contributing their comments in order to write this article. They were greatly appreciated. -JR

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