|The author's horse, Casey, looking out his stable window.|
By Gina McKnight
Do horses go to heaven? Ohio writer NC Matheny believes they do. Matheny lost his beloved horse Casey last year after a bout with colic. Matheny has written about Casey in his new memoir Hard Way to Go: The Horse of a Lifetime. His book details finding Casey as an orphaned foal and raising him to adulthood. Catching up with Matheny, we talked about horses, his life with Casey, his mission trips to Honduras, and much more.
GM: When did you meet your first horse?
NM: Shortly after my birth, my dad would take me to the horse barn, and I was by his side from early on. If I got tired, he'd put me up in his mare's manger, and I learned to pet her mane and nuzzle her nose. She was my favorite. She was a bay TWH mare.
GM: Recently you launched a new book Hard Way to Go: The Horse of a Lifetime. What is the premise for your new book?
NM: I hope others will follow their dreams and fall in love with their equine friends, just as I do. In the book, I share my journey with Casey; the good times and the times that were rough. He was my best friend. I actually lived with him for over two years. We shared the same living space. An unusual arrangement, we learned to adapt to each other’s habits and quirks. When horses know you love and respect them, they will do anything to make your dreams come true. Besides my life with Casey, I talk about my missionary trips to Honduras and my relationship with God. I encourage your relationship with God, fall in love with Him, then your life and future will be secure and full of promise. Heaven is real, and few are going there. Heaven is not our default location. Humans need repentance from human nature. Jesus is the only way I believe.
GM: Casey sounds divine. What is your favorite memory of Casey?
NM: I miss everything about Casey. My favorite memory is him waking me up every morning. He was the best alarm clock in the world. I followed my dream of living with my horse. Casey was literally a heartbeat away.
GM: Do you believe horses have spiritual and nurturing qualities?
NM: Yes, horses are spiritual. I believe horses and animals go to heaven. All animals are under the age of accountability. Under the age of accountability, humans are automatically granted heaven status before they reach accountability for their actions. But beyond that point, humans have a clear choice to make eternal peace or eternal torment. The choice is totally up to you, and no one is without excuse.
GM: In your book, you also touch on your mission trips to Honduras. What was it like to be a missionary? Do you have a favorite anecdote to share about one of your mission trips?
NM: When you serve as a missionary for the Gospel, you need a clear direction from God that you are doing the mission for the right reason and not for personal gain. Scary for me, I had not been outside of the United States and dropped into a 3rd-world country where the possibility was real that I may not come home again, all the while knowing deep down my Jesus was in all the details, and I was living my life for His glory.
I traveled to Honduras with a veterinary crew to help the local horses. I think the anecdote that best sums up my missionary trips and adventures was getting to ride a flea-bitten gray mare at the end of one of the veterinary tours. We had just fitted her with a new bridle and the tack she was wearing was not properly fitted. The owner asked if I would like to take a ride. I'm not allowed to do that, but that time I did. She was sweet, and the owner walked beside and led the mare, which was fine, but that was a joy that was not granted to most, and I will never get to do that again.
GM: What is your riding discipline? Where do you like to ride?
NM: I rode Western in my youth but found myself wanting to feel connected to my horses over the years. So a bareback pad was my answer, feeling their motion, feeling my horse under me, feeling the rhythm of each heartbeat, and wrapping around the raw power of the horse. My horses all learn freedom with me, most of them. When I retired from riding for health reasons, I rode nearly bridleless and my last horse, Mystere, would start out on the trail ride with her bridle on. By the end of the trip she was wearing her halter, and I was steering with a lead rope for reins. One of our last riding adventures, I lost my reins on a very long trail ride and had to use my GPS to where I had last seen them. The next day I found myself hiking the same trails until I found my reins, all because Mystere didn't want her bridle on any longer and I slipped it off, attached her bridle and the reins to my bareback pad, and we finished the trail ride with her halter.
GM: Always a horseman, what qualities do you look for when purchasing a horse?
NM: Watching the horse's attitude with other horses and their overall performance. A friend of mine was riding (my mare now, his mare at the time) Mystere with a group of other horses and riders. I loved the way she moved and her manners. I knew she was the horse for me. We connected immediately. I told my friend if he ever wanted to sell the mare, I wanted her, and he remembered. I have owned Mystere for many years. She is now totally retired, living out her senior years on a flat pasture with a run-in shed, happy that someone thought enough of her that she could live out her senior moments in peace.
GM: What advice do you have for those looking to find their first horse?
NM: Hire a professional to help you find the right horse. Take your time looking for the right horse and I can't overemphasize enough – once you have found your horse, spend quality time with your horse. A lesson I have learned all too hard: horses are relationship animals and it’s all about building that relationship. If you want to get on and go go go that's what you will get, but the time you put in is what you will get out. Remember, I lived with Casey my stallion for over two years. I would never think of actually living with him without the trust factor. Casey was rock-solid emotionally. With his great disposition and dynamite character, you could depend on his loyalty. He was golden. I'm not saying that I'm a professional in picking out horses. Believe me, I have looked at some after Casey's death, but have yet to find the perfect match.
GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
NM: Horsemanship is having a relationship, confidence and trust. It all comes together when the connection is developed between you and your horse. You both are individuals building a relationship that takes time, take the time that is needed. I have a couple of horses that I am still building a relationship with. The love and devotion I had for Casey was unbelievable. He was loving and devoted to me as well. He was the stuff of fairy tales and dreams. But we built that relationship over years of trust. And as your horses get older, they are not disposable no matter what happens. Face up to the hard facts of ownership, and please respect your horse. You are their only world. Remember, the Bible says, Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10
Connect with NC…