Friday, January 27, 2017

Horses Help Heal Hurting Hearts

Faith was born in Russia. We adopted her at age 5.

She joined our family with a passion for horses already in place. She drew horses. She researched breeds. She wrote stories about horses. Finally when she was about 12, we were able to provide riding lessons for her. The passion within her heart for these majestic beauties simply heated up with each exposure Faith had to one of them.

At age 14 Faith finally reached the age where she could volunteer for the local stable that provides therapeutic horseback riding for those who are disabled. Faith's older sisters, Kirsten and Christina, had each gone before her in volunteering at the stable. The girls helped one evening each week with leading or walking alongside the horses as those noble steeds carried their very special riders around an arena. Eventually the girls were asked to help train the horses on Tuesday mornings. This meant a great deal of riding time. What a sweet gift from our good God!

Another horse blessing was provided by God to our daughters. Unbeknownst to us for years, a barn sits at the bottom of our street hidden from view by the hilly landscape. When our daughter, Kirsten, needed a stable to board her horse, Magic, she called the number on a sign hanging from a corral fence that was visible from the street. It was then that we discovered, how just how close the wonder of horses could be for our family. A stable within walking distance with an indoor arena! Amazing!

This past year, Faith has had the opportunity to develop a strong bond with a horse named Zee. Zee is a former roping champion so she's way out of our price range. However, the owner of the barn who is also Zee's owner, allows Faith to lease Zee. This has been a glorious opportunity for Faith, and she's developed a deep friendship with Zee.

One day late last autumn, Faith helped both girls grow more comfortable around the large, powerful animals. Until that time, both of our youngest girls had felt nervous and tentative near horses.

Faith helped Hope grow confident in leading Zee.

As Faith prepared to saddle Zee, Hope had the role of holding Zee still. This gave our precious 14-year-old the chance to gain confidence in being close to Zee's face. The mare seemed to delight in Hope's delicate stokes.

Faith is so petite (She stands less than 5 feet tall) that I'm not sure how she hoists the heavy saddle onto Zee, but she does it like an old ranch hand.

Once Zee was saddled, Hope rode the gentle horse. Hope was hesitant at first, but with the Faith's encouraging words and ongoing instructions, Hope's confidence grew.

By the end of her time on Zee, Hope was riding like a champion thanks to her sister's kind coaching.

As I took these photos, I was so grateful to Faith for helping Hope surmount a long standing fear.

And I was tickled to see Hope and Zee's friendship begin to blossom.

This was a beautiful afternoon in every respect!

Eliana also got the chance to grow more at ease with the big beast that Zee is. Eliana has loved petting the horses that are boarded at the stable, but there's usually been a fence between her and the horse. This time she stood close as she fed Zee handfuls of grass. Much to Zee's delight!

For Eliana, this afternoon of being bathed in Faith's attention and coaching brought a real breakthrough. She laughed and bathed Zee in kisses, giving up the former nervousness she'd had around horses.

Eliana and Zee became pals that day!

It's one thing to relish a horse for your own pleasure. The world abounds in horse lovers who spend as many hours riding as they're able to work in.

However, on that slightly chilly autumn afternoon, Faith had taken her horsemanship to a new level, a stretching of her heart that would please Christ. She had shared Zee. She'd laid down her own desires for riding time and served her sisters. Her love for her little sisters and her passion for her horse had collided in exquisite wonder.

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