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Transforming Love

I peeked into the car to greet our newest participant. She was 12 years old but her face was so drawn up that she looked so much younger. Allie* glared down at her hands and glanced up at me through her eyelashes. As cheerfully as I could I greeted her and asked if she liked horses or dogs or donkeys or literally anything, trying to draw her out of her shell. She pressed her lips together and refused to speak.

The look on her face is hard to describe. It was frustrated and frightened and angry and stubborn and…so so sad. I could feel Allie’s desire to just be normal. To just be able to hop out of the car and make new friends without a second thought. But I also felt stubbornness fight against it. Everything in her mind and body was screaming “DANGER DANGER.” To get out of the car was to risk her safety. Why step into the sun when you could get burned? It was too much for her sensitive heart which could break at any moment.

We had other Sessions going on so we needed someone who could sit with Allie and kindly interact with her. I turned to our faithful assistants in Sessions, our RA’s, for help. A Junior Volunteer herself, Angie* was friendly, warm, and talkative. Though she was young, she was well-equipped to carry on a one-sided conversation if needed. I decided to send her over to sit with Allie with our miniature horse, Goliath. Being small in stature, Goliath was oftentimes a great starter horse to people who were nervous or intimidated. Armed with Goliath and a grooming box, Angie made her way to the other side of the fence.

Watching from a distance, I prayed quietly that Angie would be able to lead Allie into the pasture to the picnic tables by the arena. Allie’s parents had managed to get her out of the car but having viewed the struggle on our participant’s face I wondered if she would find the courage to even enter the pasture gate. As I led another group of girls, I kept glancing over to check for any progress. Minutes ticked by…

What I couldn’t hear was Angie introducing Goliath to Allie. Our former feral mini used to be wild and distrustful of people. Training and love had transformed him into a lovable and supportive companion. As Angie chatted away, Allie remained stubbornly silent…until Angie suggested she feed Goliath a handful of grass. She told me later that Allie had stonily offered the grass to Goliath but something had changed as he greedily gobbled it down. As she offered him more handfuls, Allie began to slowly respond to Angie’s questions. A nod went to a single word which changed to a short sentence. Angie switched to showing Allie how to groom Goliath.

Back in the arena, to my joy, I glanced up to see Angie walking through the gate followed by Allie! My heart sang! Allie walked slowly, wringing her hands. They made their way to the picnic table by the arena. They hadn’t sat for long before deciding to get up and hike through the pasture with Goliath walking faithfully along. I could hear their voices carry into the arena. BOTH of their voices.

As Sessions continued, I saw Angie introduce Allie to the other horses and chat with her, the conversation no longer one-sided. Angie told me later that Allie had had a difficult experience with a horse in the past. Goliath had been the perfect introduction for her and had helped her to gather the courage to be with the full-sized horses. Angie brought Allie into the arena with the rest of us to teach her some simple groundwork. Stroking our gentle horse, Finn, Allie absorbed what Angie was teaching. It was so incredible to see the shut-down, frustrated face that I had met just an hour earlier transform into a curious, bright expression.

I caught Allie before she left and led her and Angie to our backyard where I had stashed some special gifts for our participants. A generous company had gifted us the funds to have water bottles and journals printed with the Ranch logo for the children we serve. I grabbed one of each for her and bent slightly so I could look her in the eyes as I handed them over. “We are SO glad you came today.” I said, smiling at her. Her eyes lit up and a grin spread over her face. As she turned to go, I heard her tell Angie, “I’m going to take these to school tomorrow!”

Whenever I reflect on that day I always think how incredible it was to watch Allie transform before my eyes. What is even more meaningful is that God had used two others who had faced their own transformation.

Goliath had been angry and fearful when he first arrived at the Ranch. Over time he had learned that people were for him and desired to help him. He grew into a great Session horse and outreach pony. Angie used to be a participant just like Allie who had fought her own battle with anxiety and had won. Now Goliath and Angie were able to stand in the light of their victory and encourage another who was in the trenches.

By giving, you are also linking arms with us to fight for children like Allie and offer an opportunity to grow and transform. You are supporting our horses and volunteers like Angie and Goliath so that they can be an example of the hope that God gives when you are open to His changing power. Thank you.

-Written by Rachel Moore, Ranch Assistant

*names changed to protect identity

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