“Getting up at the ass crack of dawn sucks.” He said with a cocky grin, “But it is soooo worth it!”
“Truth!” I said with a smile on my face and a heart that was cracked wide open.
We were closing out for the week. Each morning we had all come together at 6:00 a.m. to work with the horses before the 100 degree temps stole the day away. The horses were making big shifts, the kids were making even bigger shifts! As I rode out with my baby girl along the ditch banks to a pond she and her brother had discovered the day before, I disappeared in thought. Here I was on this 1,000 acre ranch south of Albuquerque, where many young men and women call home. If I had a hard time with the label, “troubled youth” or “at risk teen” before my time at the New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranch, after having worked with a handful of the kids in the program, I couldn’t even get those labels to my tongue let alone out of my mouth!
These kids, so much like the horses that have found their way to me, aren’t troubled, they are doing the best they can with the limited skill set and the minimal tools they have in their kit. Like the horses, they haven’t had the best start in life, they haven’t been handled, taught and encouraged with the steadiest of hands, and in some cases, they’ve been outright abused by individuals choosing to exert dominance over another living, breathing, being. Kids and horses are much like computers, they are exactly what we’ve programmed them to be. They have learned ways of protecting themselves, strategies to get at least a few of their needs met and they’ve employed defenses that ensure they’ll survive in this world.
“Here mama, this is the path we took yesterday!” she said, excited to show off the hidden treasure. Her little pixy voice snapped me back into the present. As we approached the ponds I could feel Cricket begin to tighten up. I saw the backs of fish swimming up along the surface of the mucky water and then like a flash they would drop and torpedo through the water leaving dark, blackish muddy trails behind them. It was all Cricket could do to stay in his skin! We giggled as Moon Bugs lead the way along the path between the ponds. It was best if we moved on so that I didn’t wind up in the mucky water swimming with the fish! I drifted off in thought again to an evening several weeks before …
We were finishing supper and it was said that for most of the kids, their parents had quit on them. They’d thrown in the towel and walked away. Not all, but most. I asked, “What is it in people that most are quitters and a few don’t know when or how to quit?” Not one of us had an answer however the last evening we shared together it was mentioned that possible stubbornness was the root of that ‘To quit or not to quit” spirit. I laughed out loud, “Yep, I’ve been accused of that one a time or two … okay, maybe a few more times than that!” I could hear my husband in my head sheepishly sharing that I may or may not have a bit of a stubborn streak in me when he was helping me work on my mandala for class!
I watched that beautiful brunette of mine smile at me from the back of her blonde little buckskin cohort. I couldn’t imagine quitting these kids here at The Ranches much less my own kids, hell that not knowing when to quit spirit in me kept me in an abusive marriage far longer than most and generally attracts some pretty broncy, rebellious horses into my pasture! These kids were here at The Ranches voluntarily choosing to face their pasts, their demons and their unruly behaviors in order to set themselves up to make better choices in life than those of their biological, step and foster parents. Instead of quitting on themselves, they are choosing to dig their heels in deeper, set their shoulders more squarely and work at not quitting.
As we rounded the corner of the trail, crossed the bridge and rode down to the trailer to unsaddle and sponge the sweat from our horses I contemplated all we’d accomplished this week. The horses had begun to really step up and receive the kids exactly where they were each day. Some days they had more on their minds than others. Some days pieces of their own weighty past hurts, traumas and gunk were being shouldered and other days they were light and smiling. It didn’t matter, the horses showed up to teach those life lessons that they are so gracious in offering us. And ….. the kids showed up.
We walked our horses to their pens and my daughter sprayed them down with bug spray before we put their fly sheets on them for the day. I thought about my simple prayer, my little petition to the Lord, each morning before the sun would rise and the kids showed up. It sounded something like, “Lord, guide me, allow Your words to flow through my mouth to these kids in a way that they might be able to truly receive what I’m sharing. I am so very proud of all they are learning and applying. I humbly pray that they are proud of themselves too. You say in your Word, “For this reason I am telling you, whatever things you ask for in prayer [in accordance with God’s will], believe [with confident trust] that you have received them, and they will be given to you.” Mark 11:24 AMP” I can’t imagine this wouldn’t be in accordance with your will for these kids. After all, they belong to you. They are merely on loan to us.”
I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have the opportunity to share that roundpen with some really nice horses and kids with that ain’t quittin’ spirit. The grown ups in their lives may have quit them however it made room for The Ranches and all it’s staff to step in and they aren’t gonna quit. For me, as long as I see the slightest bit of try in a horse, I won’t quit them and for The Ranches, the same holds true. As long as these kids show the slightest try, no one is quitting them.
I wrapped my arm around my baby girl as we walked to the pick up and kissed her head, “Love ya kid.” She beamed, “I know. Thank you for bringing my brother and I with you to New Mexico.”
To learn more about The Ranches go to their website, https://www.theranches.org/
To learn more about what my horses and I have to offer, go to my website, http://untetheredhearts.com/
“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤