love Freedom Reigns Ranch for a lot of reasons. The horses, the friends, the sessions, and even the chores have brought more peace and joy into my heart than I ever thought was possible, including when I’m apart from the property. It’s made a lasting change in my confidence levels, my strength, and, most importantly, my relationship with God. A huge amount of this is due to my part in rehabilitating our rescues, especially Freedom, Joseph, and Warrior. Through these three horses in particular, I learn countless lessons daily - so much so that I have actually started keeping a journal and taking time to reflect after I leave the ranch. This made Warrior’s passing devastating in a number of ways. The reality of horse rescue, as we know, is considerably less glamorous than it seems in the before and after photos we post on social media. I slept on the floor of the barn in the rain the night Warrior joined our family, and “slept” is being generous, considering I really only got a few minutes of real sleep. But every second was worth it, knowing that we had stepped in and were giving Warrior another chance. If he was willing to fight, so was I. As Carissa has mentioned several times, we deal with people in crisis quite often at the ranch, and a lot of the time, getting people - and horses - the help that they truly need is not easy, convenient, or cheap. This is a great lesson, but it misses another point... it’s not always successful. That is an incredibly important part of working with trauma-affected people and horses alike. So what do we do when we did everything right? What do we do when, just when the battle seems to be won, we face a catastrophic loss? I think these questions are the questions that a lot of our participants face outside of the ranch. These are conversations that I have seen us having with participants that we might not have had before. Nothing will ever dampen the sadness of losing Warrior, however this loss opens up so many conversations that the session kids and families may not have been able to have in a peaceful, understanding environment like Freedom Reigns. The fact is, as much as we want to be a safe place for kids to “just be kids”, there is no true oasis from the harshness of reality. We may not be able to be a shelter from pain, but we are an understanding, loving community of followers of Jesus who can help kids learn to process heartbreak both on and off of the property in a healthy, meaningful way. I’ve personally seen this in my own life from a horse camp I went to as a kid that was similar to Freedom Reigns in many ways. We had a 100 horse herd, so naturally, we lost horses sometimes. The losses were devastating, especially one particular loss that comes to mind of the first horse I ever rode, but because of my counselors and the faith-based community around me, I was able to process and felt supported and loved. I learned to communicate my feelings and, most importantly, I learned to take the Lord’s hand and move forward. I learned that God does not cause our pain, but He guides us through our recovery. To this day, when I am experiencing anxiety and need a safe space, I think of that ranch. No part of the heartbreaks that I experienced there changed the way that place made me feel. I really think a lot of our participants will look back on Freedom Reigns with a similar view when they are my age. So, how do we move forward when we have seemingly failed at rescuing someone in crisis? I’d like to believe that we do not resolve to giving up on others in crisis for fear of failure. I believe it is moments like these in which we come together as a family and as followers of the Lord and lift each other up. We grow, we have conversations, and we learn. Many of the people that come to us in times of trauma and healing are profoundly impacted by the stories of our rescues. They see Freedom’s ability to trust people again, Joseph’s resilience in seemingly impossible circumstances, and Warrior’s resolve to never fear, even when he looked directly in the eye of the enemy. Warrior earned his name every step of the way, and his story will last at Freedom Reigns ranch. The story will have some sadness, and some anger, but it will also tell the story of the sacrifices that we made for a horse that never gave up. Most importantly, it will pave the way for us to continue to seek out those in need and build them up, the same way that the ranch has for other people and horses alike, and the way that the Lord does for us.