DOVER — Breaking a horse is much like the process of God molding a believer into the person he wants them to be, some believe.
And staying on that godly path, they say, requires self-discipline, repetition and a willingness to yield to biblical teachings, much like the training a horse undergoes after it is broken for riding.
Cowboy-Up Ministry, a nondenominational church that follows these principles, recently has moved from a ranch in Lithia to the Hillsborough County Fair property, on the north side of State Road 60 at Sydney-Washer Road. Church officials hope the congregation will grow with the additional space.
The ministry will celebrate its new location with an 11 a.m. service Sunday, followed by a free barbecue and special guest Paul Daily, a traveling evangelist who plans to gentle a horse in front of the crowd, then auction it to benefit Cowboy-Up and his Wild Horse Ministries.
Tanya Scott, who trains horses and gives lessons on mounted shooting at Double T Ranch in Turkey Creek, is donating the horse.
Cowboy-Up pastor Skipper Calder said he hopes the new location at the fairground’s outside arena will draw people who might not be comfortable attending services at a traditional brick-and-mortar church.
“For five years we met in a big arena, and it was easy to bring outside people in and do all kinds of demonstrations, from roping to barrel racing,” Calder said. “When we moved to Lithia, all I could do was use the little round pen, and we were running out of room. We were looking for someplace to go.”
During Cowboy-Up church, Calder typically trains a different horse each week and, using Scripture, relates it to man’s walk with God. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed.
“The fairground has got a lot of plans to grow, and we want to grow with them,” he said. “We are meeting outside, weather permitting, in the arena.” Calder said the congregation will work off most of the cost of the county lease by spending volunteer hours maintaining and improving the fairground.
While meeting in Lithia, Cowboy-Up attracted about 130 people on Sundays. Calder said he hopes more people will attend now that the church meets at a larger, more centrally located arena.
Daily broke a horse in front of a Cowboy-Up crowd last year, too, said Riviere Thomas, of Plant City, who arranged the event.
“Wild Horse Ministries, this will be the third year we’ve had them in our area,” Thomas said. “They do different things with the horse to gain its trust while quoting Scripture.”
It is the type of ministry that horse people, particularly, find attractive, Thomas said, noting that 10 to 15 people were baptized at the first event three years ago, and many of them began attending church regularly.
“Paul will explain how the horse is giving and how we should give, also. We have people that aren’t even horse people that can relate to this kind of teaching without a lot of Bible terminology.
“If you can really see something, you can relate that to your life,” he said.
Daily’s demonstration is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.