Barbara J. Dombach

the Doctrine Reins


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A trembling horse stands in front of bidders as the auctioneer announces, “O.K. folks…this one has lots of chrome, very classy, fills two hands, sound and is ready for miles.” It is auction time for this retired race horse and possibly his final journey will begin when he is harnessed to an Amish or Old Order Mennonite buggy where prospects for safe travel will be all that is required of this 4 year old gelding.


The majority of buggy horses used by the Amish and other “plain” religious sects start their lives at racing stables.  There they are trained to wear the harness and pull a jogging cart.  When final training is completed the time trial testing begins.  Those that don’t make the expected qualifying rounds or are too old for prime racing are usually purchased by Amish or Mennonite buyers to resale to the Plain community to pull buggies.


“The Doctrine Reins” addresses the continuation of a tradition deepened in religious principle by   certain sects of Amish and Old Order Mennonite faiths.  They continue to live not of this world as stated in First John Chapter 2 verse 15, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you.” These religious sects feel that true Christians should not follow the ways of the world which they consider to be obsessed with fads.  Therefore they fervently live without most of the amenities that we take for granted in our everyday life, including ownership of an auto which they feel would fragment families and meld them into the world.


Their commitment to follow the “Ordnung” (unwritten doctrine for order, discipline, rule, arrangement, organization or system) within the sects levies upon them the rigid use of horse and buggy for transportation as well, for some, the use of the horse or mule as power for farming has remained unchanged since the origin of their belief over 400 years ago.  Unyielding commitment by members of these religious sects who live as Christians with mindfulness to this unwritten doctrine will guarantee the survival of their traditions and that of the horse as the mainstay of transportation.

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