Ranch Life

By Sarah Robinett

“Sometimes I feel like I want to be brave.”

I stood in silence as I let the words sink in. The girl who sat across from me during our Harvest Day class was painting the word “Brave” in large, bold letters across the wooden board in front of her. I remembered how just the day before, I’d been looking at what seemed to be a completely different child.

This same shy 10 year-old, who we’ll call “Hannah,” stood off to the side as our Greeter paired kids with their session leaders. Her name was called and she came my way. I noticed that she was very tall for her age and walked nervously and somewhat awkwardly as she followed me to start our session.

When I asked her what she wanted to do, she wrung her hands and responded, “I guess maybe . . . we could . . . ride a horse.”

“You guess maybe we could?” I countered with a big smile.

“Oh… um… sorry.  Let’s ride a horse.”

At that moment, I had an odd thought. It was more like a deep knowing than a thought. This girl needed to ride Phoenix, more commonly known here as, Phoebe.

Phoebe came as a three-year-old mare from the most extreme rescue the ranch has ever been a part of . . . a backyard breeding program of over 300 starving, emaciated and dead horses. Dogs roamed everywhere too, living and breeding in piles of junk. The dogs were also starved to the point of attacking and eating the carcasses of the horses who’d died. Amazingly, Phoebe survived the rescue and transportation to the ranch and the staff here at Crystal Peaks lovingly nourished Phoebe back to health. Still, however, she sometimes struggles with fear and trust. To be successful during a session, she needs a strong, confident leader.

And Hannah was anything but confident.

Unsure of the combination, but trusting the Lords urging, we set out to halter Phoebe. Hannah listened intently as I told her Phoebe’s horrific story of survival and her current need of a confident rider. I also explained to Hannah that once someone earns Phoebe’s trust, she becomes one of the most loyal horses I’ve ever met.

Once in the arena and atop Phoebe’s back, I was amazed at the transformation I saw in Hannah. She quietly and confidently directed Phoebe around cones and through obstacles. Each time Phoebe acted a bit nervous, Hannah calmly regained her focus. My new, young friend rode like a champion. While riding, she started to talk—and tell me stories—and laugh! She came to life! I stood amazed at the miracle unfolding before my eyes. . .a timid, little girl teaching out to a timid, rescued horse. . . and showing her how to be brave.

The following day during our class, I was delighted that God gave me a sneak peek at the transformation He was continuing to do.

“Sometimes I want to be brave.”

I jolted back to the present. “Hannah, yesterday with Phoebe . . . you were brave. It was incredible to watch you work with her so well. It takes a pretty special person to be able to do what you did for such a broken and kind horse.”

She smiled up at me and quietly went back to work. At the end of the class, I looked again at her board. Behind the word “Brave,” was a painted horse silhouette running into the wild colors of a sunset. I couldn’t help but think that horse must have been Phoebe.