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Friday, November 24th, 2006

New book by former area priest brings faith and horses together

By Shelley Grieshop
The Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer believes God and horses are a combination made in heaven.
The former Osgood and North Star area priest and author, who breaks colts in his spare time, uses stories from people drawn closer to God through horses in his newly-released book "Stable Faith: Portraits of Grace from the Heartland."
"It's like the way an artist is inspired by a beautiful landscape. I use the draw of horses," Schmitmeyer, 53, says.
"Stable Faith" is Schmitmeyer's fourth published book. He has written extensively on subjects such as preaching, liturgy and rural ministry and received the Best New Author Award from the Catholic Press Association in 2000 for "A Calendar of Care: Reflections of a County Pastor."
The current pastor at St. Aloysius Church, a suburban parish in Cincinnati, he says his new book features people of all ages including a chapter on the Michael and Gwenn Barga family of North Star and Jay Heitkamp of Minster, who operates the local Harmony Reins, an equine therapy farm.
Other stories in the book include mounted officers in the Cincinnati Police Department, an elderly nun who tries to ride a nervous horse in Mexico and the antics of youths who work at his boarding barn.
"The book is more about grace than horses," Schmitmeyer says, adding readers don't have to be passionate about horses to find the book interesting.
In the introduction, Schmitmeyer, a diocesan priest, writes: "As I work to move a colt past his fear of the unknown, I am reminded of the tentativeness of my own trust in God. When I ride a trail through an autumn woods, my spirit surges with praise ... "
Schmitmeyer says the stories remind people to live in the moment and see grace anywhere they see a horse.
The former priest of St. Nicholas and St. Louis parishes began riding horses about a dozen years ago. After acquainting himself with the breeds, he started breaking colts two years later. He also trains horses.
"When you get a thousand pound animal to do what you want, you start to see just how amazing life is," he says. "When I'm alone with a horse, my soul is most renewed."
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