She had doubts about running her equine therapy business, until angels reminded her she was not alone.
Posted in , Feb 26, 2020
Horses have always been my passion, but I never thought I’d own a horse farm, one where I taught children and adults, many with special needs, to ride. God had made that possible. When I first started out, I felt like he and I were partners. He was on the farm with me as I fed and watered the animals, cleaned their stalls, talked with the riders. But over time the daily struggles of running a business made me feel as if I were on my own.
I felt the weight of my doubts on my shoulders the afternoon a 10-year-old student came to say goodbye at the end of her lesson. Before getting into her parents’ car, she paused and looked around at the stables and pastures. “You know, Miss Jill, you have a fence that goes all the way around your property.”
“Well, without a fence the horses would wander off and might get hurt.”
She shook her head. “Not that fence,” she said. “It’s a fence of peace.”
“A fence of peace?” I said. “What does it look like?”
She frowned, as if choosing her words carefully. “You know how when it’s hot and you can see a shimmer in the air over the pavement? It’s like that. I can see it as soon as our car pulls up.”
I watched her walk away, trying to see the shimmer she described. Could it be true that God was so present here still?
A few days later I worked with a little boy who was about eight years old and had autism. We brought him over to one of the horses. Three employees and I laid our hands on the animal and said a prayer. “Lord, we ask you to give this horse love, patience, kindness and goodness.” The horse nickered, as if in answer. I helped the boy climb on the horse’s back. Another employee took the lead rope. I walked on one side, and two other employees walked on the other. “Here we go. That’s a good boy,” I encouraged the horse.
Our little rider looked around. He clearly enjoyed the sensation of being on the horse, although he couldn’t tell us himself. He didn’t easily speak, and I had never heard him utter a word. I hoped he was enjoying the clear, sunny day, the gentle rocking of the horse, the smell of hay and leather as much as I was. Slowly and steadily we walked into the horse pen. In an instant the horse stumbled, lurching sharply to the side. He steadied himself quickly, but I was worried the boy had been frightened. “Are you okay, buddy?”
To my surprise, the boy wasn’t looking at the horse beneath him or at the ground where he had stumbled. He was looking up into the sky, as if admiring the clouds above. “Angels,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Angels,” the boy repeated, still gazing up at the sky.
The employee with the lead rope and I exchanged glances. Angels? I gazed into the sky. Did angels shimmer? Like heat rising from a hot pavement? If they were present, I couldn’t see them.
Days later I readied another horse. It’s up to me to keep the children safe, I reminded myself. Especially during this lesson. This particular student could be hard to control and regularly received low marks on the behavior chart her parents kept at home. I didn’t know how much we could help her. She’d told me flat out, in fact, that she didn’t like horses. But she did like Fuzzy, a particular horse I didn’t normally use for lessons. The student had begged and begged me to let her ride him, until one day I’d made an impulsive promise. “The day you get a hundred on your chart at home is the day you’ll ride Fuzzy.”
Well, that was all it took for her to get an A-plus. Today was the day. “A promise is a promise,” I said when she hopped out of the car. Her parents agreed she’d more than earned the privilege.
I enlisted five other employees to walk with Fuzzy, just to be safe—two on each side, another holding the lead. All six of us prayed over Fuzzy before we started. God, you know he isn’t used to children and needs you with him today.
Fuzzy was good as gold. So was my student. Maybe God is watching the farm just that closely, I thought as we walked around the back pasture. “Let’s go down to the driveway,” I said. Children loved the sound the horses hooves made as they clip-clopped on the pavement.
We walked over the grass and were just passing the oak tree in the backyard when Fuzzy suddenly reared up on his hind legs. “Hold on to his mane!” I shouted. “Hold on to his mane!” My voice was harsher than I ever used with the children, but I didn’t want the rider to panic and pull the reins back. That would just make the horse rear higher. It felt like a full minute before Fuzzy’s front hooves finally hit the grass again. I glared at him furiously for scaring us like that. Then I took a deep breath and turned to my student. “Honey, I’m sorry I raised my voice,” I said.
The little girl looked down at me with a look of outright disdain. “Miss Jill,” she said, as if my behavior was not only silly but downright rude. “There were angels all around me. I was fine.”
The girl was ready to continue her ride, and all my doubts were lifted from my shoulders. My name might be the one on the deed to the farm, but God and I were running this business together.
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