​​​Using horses to transform lives, imparting hope, and healing

​​​​​Liz

I didn’t really have anything to do with meeting Terri. I had asked my mother just about every week since I could talk if I could have a horse or taking riding lessons. For most of my growing up years my family hadn’t been able to afford it, and while I still talked about it often, as I got older I wasn’t really expecting to get the opportunity to ride anytime soon.  

Then one day in the summer of 2008 when I was seventeen my mom suddenly told me she’d been talking to a woman at church named Patty who knew another woman named Terri who went to church there and who taught riding lessons. Next thing I knew my mom had called Terri and I was going out to Hope Ranch for my first riding lesson.

When we arrived we met Terri in the driveway by the front pasture and she started talking to us about the natural horsemanship she teaches people; she talked about putting the relationship with horse above your other goals, and how she grew up riding bareback and started people with bareback pads. I had never heard about natural horsemanship before, I basically just knew that some people rode Western and some rode English. I think at the time I was most interested in getting to ride bareback because I always thought the images I’d seen of Native Americans riding with just blankets and minimal tack was the coolest way to ride. I had no idea how passionate I’d become about all of it.

That first day at the ranch Terri shows me and my mom around and introduced us to her horses. Her personal horse was a Palomino named Dallas, and she pointed out another Palomino mare as Dallas’ foal that a girl about my age was working with in the area. The girl was doing ground work with her and had her going sideways and going backwards through the gate. Terri talked about how well the girl was doing because some of those things were not very easy to do, and I looked at the horse with her head held high in the air and her quick moving feet and felt a little intimidated by her attitude.

I was not very confident or outspoken, and when I went back the next week for my second lesson Terri asked me which horse I thought I’d like to ride and I couldn’t decide, so when she suggest I go get Trinity  I said ‘okay’ even though internally I did not want to start my lessons with her. Trinity was the mare I’d watched at work in the area that first day. We went and got her and after an introduction to Parelli Natural Horsemanship’s ground games we got on Dallas and Trinity and went for a little ride in the field alongside the property. I promptly had my first experience of falling of a horse. We were on a slight decline in that field and I’m not the most naturally coordinated person so when we tried a little trot I fell off in between the two horses who were side by side. Terri told me later she was scared I would never come back or ride again after that. She encouraged me to get back on though, and I recalled every cowgirl book I’d read as a kid that told me when you fall you have to get back on and I decided to do it. I got back on that day and I decided that day and on other occasions afterward when things happened that scared me or shook my confidence that I had to decide to keep going, because I had to pick what I loved over what scared me, even when those two things were intertwined. 

I’ve learned a lot of lessons like that from riding, from Terri, and from Trinity herself. Trinity became the horse I learned everything with. She was the horse I rode bridleless in the arena, galloped bareback through open fields, whose back I stood up on, who I fell of more than any other horse, and who I came to have more trust and rapport with than most other living creatures.

Coming out to Hope Ranch wasn’t just about our horses though. Terri also hosted Bible studies and often talked to me and the other girls about her own life and things she was experiencing, wondering, and learning about her own faith. I shared her Christian faith before I started coming out to the ranch, but still learned so much through being there. Sometimes I would attend the Bible studies regularly and learned from those, and other times I would just happen to be there finishing up a ride or hanging out and end up staying for a session of a Bible study I wasn’t actually a part of, or Terri would talk about some realization she had just had while reading or praying about a problem she was facing. And there have been countless times something in one of those unplanned moments has hit me and helped me come a new understanding of my own circumstances and helped my own faith to grow. I’ve also formed so many new friendships and deepened existing ones because of Hope Ranch. There have been a number of women, and a couple guys, that I have met over the past eight years, and often ridden with for years. I feel very blessed to have made so many friends and feel like I have benefited from so many of the relationships. One of the special things about the ranch is that since the main draw is the horses it has brought together a lot of people of different ages, different backgrounds, different beliefs, and even different countries.