November is always that month where people start saying out loud the things that they are thankful for. We have probably been thankful every month, but it’s good to designate a time to ponder these things and say them out loud. I’m sure November is deemed the “thankful” month because of Thanksgiving but at Breaking Free, November is also a good month to be thankful because our sessions have come to an end and we begin the process of reflection. We start thinking over the last year and deciding what things we will continue and what things we will change next year.
My thankful heart goes first to how thankful I am for these horses. If you look out over our herd, you might not think they look like much! We have a very eclectic group and not much in the way of pedigree. But I see horses that will stand still-as-a-statue while a very noisy lift carries a child out of a wheelchair and lowers the child down onto their back. What an amazing level of trust and responsibility that horse must feel to allow us to do that without taking a single step forward! I see a group of horses that know when to listen to their rider’s cues and when to ignore it and listen to their handler. That is an incredible skill for a horse to have. I see horses that deal with the emotions and personalities of different handlers and students everyday. Most horses have one owner that they can come to expect. But our horses learn to come into every situation with an open mind, using their intuition to find the right way to respond to each person. Our horses form relationships with a variety of people every day. They are the best of the best. I was thinking about our Gabe at the horse show this year. He pulled a shoe in the mud that morning. I’m sure his foot was tender and we would have understood if he refused to do the show. But he didn’t. He was in every single class and never took a single unsteady step. We retired Gabe that night and he left to his well deserved retirement pasture with one of our students. It is horses like Gabe that I am so grateful to know. And I am grateful that they can take a break for a couple months to rest their bodies and minds and get ready for another busy season in the spring!
I am also thankful for our volunteers. There is a million things that these folks could do with their time. And yet, every week, they are here. Our volunteers don’t always get to hear how these lessons have impacted the lives of the students. That’s something we hope to improve upon next year. But even so, they believe so much in the program and the horses, that they faithfully continue to come. They give their time, their money and their hearts to these kids. It is not easy work; It’s physically and emotionally demanding. There is no shortage of reasons people volunteer but one common theme among them is: they all know that they are blessed. And when you feel that way, you know you have to pass that blessing on to others. We have a supporter that is blessed financially and wants to pass on that blessing in a monetary donation. We have a volunteer who has overcome a physical ailment and wants to use her now healthy body to help someone else. We have one volunteer whose life has been changed by her relationship with a horse and wants to pass that on to someone else. We have many college students who come not just to give, but also to learn. This web of volunteers, interns and supporters is what keeps Breaking Free running and I am so eternally grateful to each one of them. If you have helped Breaking Free this year in any capacity, I hope you tell your friends and family about it. I hope you are proud of the work that you have accomplished. Your dedication has given people hope and put smiles on kids faces.
When I think about the classes that took place over the last year, I’m encouraged by the strength that the kids developed, the flexibility, the speech. I think about the self esteem the kids have gained and the pride they have in learning something new. I am so thankful for the families that come out every week, allowing this group of instructors, volunteers and horses into their lives and the chance to help make it better. Just like our volunteers, there are many reasons that bring people out to Breaking Free but sometimes what they get out of it, isn’t what they had expected! One student that came this year just so happened to come on a day when we received a new horse, Ransom. As the student walked down the barn aisle, every horse stuck their head out for a pet. Ransom however, had his head in the corner. I explained to the student that Ransom was new and still shy. The student told me that he went to Safety town for the first time that day and he was also new and shy. I asked him to tell Ransom how he felt at Safety town. The student talked about how he felt when he didn’t know anyone there and he was nervous about what was going to happen. As he talked, Ransom started to turn around until finally his head was out for a pet! He said: "Ransom will like it here and I'll remember him at Safety town tomorrow!" Who knew a horse could help a child when he goes somewhere new! But that is exactly what happens when these kids and families allow a special bond to form between them and their horse friends. I am thankful for parents who trust us with their children and allow us a glimpse into their lives. If you are a participant at Breaking Free, I hope that you spend the winter snuggled up! Then return in the Spring with a new list of goals and an eagerness to see what a horse can teach you!
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers ~ Ephesians 1:15