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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 7

Submission, Madam

I remember so well the first day I saw her. It was in the summer after the seventh grade. Our family had been living in California during the war while Daddy was stationed at Pearl Harbor. During this time I got my first horse, Sox, which we kept in a stall behind the garage. My life was devoted to caring for Sox. But we moved back to Birmingham when Daddy’s tour of duty in the Navy was over. I sadly had to leave Sox behind. Back M Birmingham I hung out at the riding stable where my best friend Susu boarded her horse. One Saturday afternoon when I was at the barn with Susu some neighbors rode their horses over to use the riding ring. The man was riding a gorgeous big red chestnut gelding named Dandy Dick. He was a lot of horse and was not fully cooperating, but I was awed at his beauty. The lady was riding a feminine version of the big red horse. She was a dainty chestnut mare with the “look of eagles” in her eyes. This was my first real encounter with the American Saddlebred horse and :1 was deeply stirred. They were quite a step up from the rental horses I was used to or even my Calvary bred Sox. Their size, satiny coats, and their beautiful and spirited expression captured my heart. I went home deeply desiring a horse like these.

Sometime later, a large picture of the lady riding the same mare appeared on the front page of the Society section of the Sunday Paper and I found out that the beautiful mare was named Madam Stark. I carried this picture around for months, maybe even a year. I slept with it under my pillow at night. Madam dominated my thoughts. I had no hopes of owning this mare. I understood that we had no place to keep a horse and just could not have one now.

Then one day my understanding, but unhorse wise, parents took me to a farm in Calera, Alabama that belonged to a friend of Daddy’s. They told me that their friends who owned the farm had a horse for me to ride. Eagerly I made the trip to Calera with my mother. We walked into the attractive stable and to the stall of the horse I was to ride. I looked in the stall and instead of just an ordinary horse as I was expecting was the beautiful red Saddlebred mare that I had ridden in my dreams every night, even as her picture lay under my pillow. Confused, I thought Daddy’s friends had bought her and I was shaken. Then my unselfish mother said, “Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday again!” It turned out that Mother had given up her offer of a new fur coat to buy me the darling of my heart! I just couldn’t take it all in that Madam Stark belonged to me!

That day a tumultuous friendship that lasted until my children were born began between a little girl and a high-strung mare. Little did my parents suspect the traumatic days that lay ahead. 

I learned to ride Madam that summer. In modern terms she was like a high-powered sports car in comparison to a Volkswagen bug to any of the other horses I had ever ridden. And, I had no teacher. She was quick as lightning and super responsive to the least signal from me or the things that she perceived as danger to her eagle gaze. She never missed a thing. In our later days (after I had learned to ride her) she was as game as they come and on our trail rides my fiend’s apparently calmer horse often didn’t have the heart to make it over the treacherous mountains and other wild places which our parents had no idea we were exploring. But Madam never balked at anything and when I had to leave her standing in treacherous places to go and encourage the gentler horses, she stood like a statue until I came back to her. Every time I asked her to tackle anything she gave it all she had and then some.

However at the first, she was so much more horse than I was ready for at the time my unsuspecting parents bought ‘her. I was not the experienced trainer that a spirited horse needs. Rather she was training me to her own likings. So, on the early days of our association she acquired a very nasty habit of rearing on her hind legs when she wanted to do a different thing than I did. Learning that her rearing got her way, it became even more dangerous as she would stand up so straight on her bind legs that I would fear loosing my balance and falling backward on the reins, thus pulling her over onto her back and me. One time this feared scenario happened. I did not get out of the way quickly enough and her thousand pounds of muscle came crashing down on top of me. An ambulance carried me away to the hospital to discover that I had a broken pelvis. This required months of bed rest flat on my back with the foot of the bed slightly higher than the head.

During this time I missed the last semester of the eighth grade, but was allowed to graduate from grammar school anyway. During my convalescence my adult visitors would inevitably  say, “I bet you will never get on that horse again!” I passed it off fully believing  nothing could ever make me afraid of a horse. Finally, I was able to go and see Madame again, and I was so excited. ‘But, when I first put my hand on her shiny coat, the most unexpected thing happened – a terrible fear enveloped me! It was so awful that I envisioned skulls and blood and all sorts of grotesque things I had never thought of before.

My pride would never let me admit this fear to anyone. A super horsewoman was what I thought of myself and I couldn’t let anyone know my terrible secret! So gradually I forced myself to face the perceived dangers that I feared. I blamed the slowness of my actual riding her on my healing body, but I was inwardly dreading the thought of getting on her back again. In fact, just leading her was fearful. But eventually I faced my fears and began riding her again.  It wasn’t long before she remembered her trick and I knew that if I didn’t conquer her, then I would have to face up to something that I dreaded. even more – having to give her up and let the world know of my shameful fear. Oh! How proud I was!

I know now what I didn’t know then, although I instinctively understood the principle: If Madame won she would be worthless – a rebellious and dangerous horse. And, I would be a failure as a horsewoman.

When the heavenly Father created all things he gave to man the dominion over the creation. The creatures and resources of the earth were for us to use, to care for, and to manage for our mutual good. The creation was to work in harmony with man. The animals were to serve man, and Proverbs tells us that a good man considers the needs of his beasts. The strictest laws of the Jewish laws in the Old Testament Sabbath provides for the care of the ox. A rebellious horse was not a good thing. It was definitely against the Father’s plan as it was good for nothing. A horse was designed and bred for many purposes: some for speed, some for great strength in pulling things, some for working cattle, some for jumping, and some for the advanced disciplines in many fields. To develop the horses for talents to the finest pitch involves a perfect union between horse and rider, as in a symphony or ballet. The horse must be completely submissive and willing to give every thing he has to the subtlest commands of the rider’s hands on the reins and the least movement of his body. To be really successful the horse must love his work. This can come about only with the careful training of a good horseman who understands a particular horse’s personality and its physical endowments. The trainer has to learn just what the horse can do mentally and physically, and then set about training it by degrees until there is complete unity between them. As no horse or rider stays trained forever, it is the constant tuning of the relationship between the horse and rider that allows the best in each to arise. Only then can we see the beautiful ballet that can be exhibited in any of the several horse disciplines when horse and rider move in perfect harmony as if directed by one mind as indeed they are – the mind of the horse perfectly yielded to the mind of the rider. What a picture this is of the way God created man to function with Himself. This is what we were created for, this perfect unity. Us rising to the peak of our abilities as we live completely submitted to His every direction. This is what the Bible is about It is the manufacturer’s handbook for the product – man and the world we have been given dominion over.

So, I planned my attack. I put her halter on over her bridle with a long rope attached. Around my waist I wrapped a rawhide bullwhip Daddy had bought me in Mexico. I mounted, holding the long rope attached to her halter with the reins. It wasn’t long before she refused to go where I asked. her to and threatened to rear to get her way, Immediately I jumped off of her holding the long halter rope. With the other hand I grabbed the bullwhip around my waist and started swinging the whip at her front legs. She reared and lunged pulling me all over the paddock, but at every lunge I got in another cut on her legs with the whip. My rope arm and my whip arm were killing me, but I knew that I had to win or I would loose this battle forever. Finally, when I felt like I didn’t have enough strength to swing the whip one more time the most amazing thing-happened: the mare came toward me even as I was attacking her and ‘laid her head on my chest signaling her complete submission. From that time on she never reared again.

In later years when the God I loved so much was trying to show me the error of my ways, it seemed like He was pursuing me with a bull whip as all the props in my life were being pulled out. I questioned the reason that I was born and the meaning of good, feeling like everything I counted well in life He counted badly and He proceeded to lay the whip against me. There came a dramatic moment when I saw, through the book of Job, that I had been calling the shots as if I were God. I was trying to rule my universe; I had set my heart on my own way and refused to bow to Him, the only wise God. Finally the light dawned in my own heart as it had dawned in Madame’s heart years before: I must cast myself totally on the mercy of the one who indeed was my Master, and because he loved me so much, was trying to show me His purpose for me in the only way that I could ever be made to see. His plan for me was to be what he had created me to be which was the only way I could find true happiness. It was just the same as my plan for Madame. She was created to submit to me, her loving, adoring master in order to fulfill the reason for her creation.

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 6

Seville, My Ishmael

Seville was a beautiful Arabian stallion. He gave me much joy and much pain. Yet he was much more in my life than just a prized possession, or even the financial disaster that he turned out to be. 

The American Saddlebred horse had always been our first love. I got my first one in the seventh grade. Madam Stark was the light of my life until John and I got married, even though she did rear up and fall over backwards on me and break my pelvis. I missed most of the eighth grade because of this. 

After I met John in high school, we acquired together a beautiful black Saddlebred gelding named Peavine’s Artistic Denmark. He had been a five gaited, then a three gaited show horse of a sort and then became a jumper before he became our trail horse complete with roached mane and set tail which was also roached (like a mule’s). We kept him until John joined the army. Desperate to sell him before he left to go to basic training, John decided to sell him at the Saturday Night Sale in Birmingham Hide and Tallow. It was under the viaduct on First Avenue. Good horses would go to individuals and dude ranches, and sadly, others would go for the “killers,” dog meat. As we had no access to trucks and trailers, John rode Denmark all the way from Shades Mountain to First Avenue South, right through the middle of downtown Birmingham. Before the sale began, John sold him for $35 to a farmer for his children to ride. 

There were lots of Saturday night horse shows in Alabama in those days and I had been watching the beautiful Saddlebred show horses perform since I was very young. Quite naturally my affection was for them, so when John and I got back into horses after our children were born it was with Saddlebreds. After several prosperous years at Heathermoor Farm we went through some hard times and couldn’t sell our horses. John was depressed about it and I prayed that God would give him something to encourage him. During this time the Arabian horses were being marketed internationally in an amazing way as “living art.” There were wonderful tax advantages to this industry. Since the Arabian was raised in many countries, great tax deductions could be had for traveling anywhere if you were in the Arab horse business. The major financial magazines were declaring that investments in Arabian horses were a good bet. So we began to look at these quaint little horses and John got very excited about the financial prospects. I looked at these horses with him, but my heart would yearn for our rangy, high going Saddlebreds. 

Then some other eager entrepreneurs came up with a new twist. The Arabian horse was beautiful as “living art,” but as performing show horses they were not nearly as exciting as the Saddlebred. Breeding Arabians to Saddlebreds might give this ancient breed more action and greater size. 

Thus the National Show Horse breed was established. For five thousand dollars Arabian stallions could be nominated to the NSH stud book and their foals out of American Saddlebred mares would be National Show Horses. This amazing marketing program was catapulting this new breed into the limelight. 

This seemed to be the answer to our problem. Breed our wonderful Saddlebred mares to nominated Arabian stallions and sell the foals for fortunes! How could we do this? We didn’t have that kind of money. To buy our own stallion would cost thousands of dollars that we didn’t have. Then one day the impossible happened. 

A commercial horse van was traveling through Birmingham on its way to Scottsdale, Arizona, a thriving center for wealthy people totally caught up in the Arabian horse fever. On board was a little bay mare belonging to an important investor in the Arabian horse market in South Carolina. The little mare was en route to one of the very most important personages in the Arabian business who resided in Scottsdale, Arizona. The mare had fallen in the van and wouldn’t get up. Frantic, the driver got the Birmingham phone book and called the first horse vet he could find. It happened to be our vet, a most unusual lady who doctored only horses. She worked closely with my husband on some very interesting cases involving “slinging” horses with broken legs and getting a horse out of the hay loft of a barn where it had climbed up a long twisted ladder-like staircase and other such exotic cases. Naturally she called John to help her with the downed mare. 

They were able to get the mare, Fireglow, into our trailer and hauled her to a comfortable stall in our barn. Soon after contacting her owner in South Carolina, John agreed to haul the mare for a very handsome sum of money to Scottsdale as soon as she recovered from her injury. 

The trip to Scottsdale was quite an adventure. John had wanted me to stay home because he was going to drive straight through and get back home quickly. Feeling like we were in desperate need of a vacation, I prevailed on him to let me go. We traveled into the night until we couldn’t go any further, then we got a room in a little western motel. After we had unloaded Fireglow and walked her around in the dark night of the parking lot, we put her to bed in the two horse trailer. We had never had a horse in our care that was worth so much money, $500,000, so we backed the trailer up to our room door, planning to be gone before morning light and somebody saw us. 

After interesting breaks and wonderful conversations with very different and interesting folks at pre-dawn and midnight hours in fancy truck stops, which were all a totally new world to me, we finally arrived in Scottsdale. We found our way to the palatial stable where Fireglow would reside, which was the wing of an elegant home where her new owners lived in style. The hall of the stable- it could not be called a barn- literally opened with sliding glass doors into the living room of the mansion. There were oriental rugs and chandeliers decorating this connection of the horse abode and human one. 

Residing in the stable was the first of this establishment’s National Show Horse herd, a not so elegant American Saddlebred mare. She was to be bred to one of the man’s magnificent Arab stallions in the beautiful horse palace. We were not able to see her out of the stall because the brushes were all in the sterilizer. Oh my! What would these folks have thought if they had seen the community unsterilized brushes Fireglow had been groomed with in an ordinary barn with rats and cats living in it. 

The next morning we began our vacation at Fireglow’s expense. Thoughts of this new venture in the horse business came at a very critical time. I was strongly feeling John’s depression, though he would never talk about it because he never complained. Only I did that. He was feeling his responsibility to provide for us and didn’t know where the money could come from. He was hoping we had found the answer. 

I was the one who was complaining, thinking God had led us to a dead end in our walk with Him through the adventures of Heathermoor Farm. In the several beautiful days ahead we traveled to the Grand Canyon, the beautiful snow covered mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona, and the exotic desert landscapes nearby. These days were certainly planned by God as the classroom for some important teaching from Him that I desperately needed. I was reading from the book of Job. I, like Job, was arguing with God about our circumstances. We had tried our best to live by faith on this adventure, but the foundations of hope and supply had seemed to dry up and I had begun to deliver questions and accusations to God. As I saw the majesty of His creation stretching out before me, in the quietness of being away from the everyday turmoil, I began to ponder it. I began to hear Elihu’s dissertation to Job about the majesty of God revealed in the creation, and the righteousness of God in His dealings with us, if only we would see. Then the light began to dawn on me through the fog of my rebellious thoughts when God began to speak from the whirlwind to Job, and also to me, “Who is this that darkens council by words of knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me, ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.’”

I went home with the beginnings of a much needed humility and a new realization that I was not the Almighty and that surely “His ways were not our ways and His thoughts were not our thoughts,” and His ways were indeed past our finding out. Yet I still had much to learn. 

It seemed we had really connected with the solution God had given us for our financial predicament. Our adventure with Fireglow had put us in touch with some of the very top people in the Arabian horse business. We had an open door to look at many fine horses and many different angles of the business. We thought the most efficient way was to buy our own stud, so we went looking. Never telling anyone that we had no money. After all, wasn’t God our source and hadn’t we been on this path before God had given us the magnificent Saddlebred stallion, Rex? 

Our prayers seemed to be answered miraculously when my sisters wanted to sell some family land. We were presented our share. By trading some of our mares in addition we had the money to buy the stallion we wanted. A miracle seemed to have taken place! I prayed for the wisdom to know if we should spend the money in this way. As the scripture said, “Everything must be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” God had always spoken to me by causing the general Word of God to suddenly become the Rhea Word to me. The Scripture would light up like a neon sign (figuratively) when He was speaking it to me. This time however, the verses that I found didn’t have that charge and I never found but one seemingly confirming scripture, and I was stretching that one. Yet, hadn’t I prayed for something that would give John hope? Hadn’t I been willing to sacrifice my heart’s desire to give him this opportunity? Hadn’t the circumstances worked together supernaturally? Even though the business advice we had received had been favorable, the “peace that passeth understanding” failed to “mount guard and garrison around my heart.” I turned to the way of the flesh and my own understanding. So, El Paso Seville came to Heathermoor Farm and we hailed a new day of prosperity. 

For the next two years things went great. We collected many expensive stud fees from Seville. We had many beautiful colts from our Saddlebred mares. We had all sorts of deals going with Arabian enthusiasts. Then suddenly the market dropped out of the Arabian horse business. A year later another blow befell us and we were forced to move the location of Heathermoor Farm, but that’s another story. Then John died. I was left all alone with Seville, his colts and other horses. My nieces and I went on with the business of teaching riding lessons and training horses for our many young riders. 

Seville was a beautiful stallion which had cost us so much, and I enjoyed watching him. But, he was totally useless to me and I could not sell him now. One day I was lounging him watching his graceful movements, admiring the muscles rippling under his sleek mahogany side when a voice spoke to me, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” I pondered it for some weeks. Then the same thing happened again. The truth began to dawn on me. Seville was my Ishmael. And, he was literally an Arab too!

Many years ago, God had called Abraham to leave his father’s house and go to a land he would give him, where he would make of him a mighty nation. Many years went by and Abraham was eighty-five years old and still did not have a son. His wife Sarah gave him her maid hoping to produce the long awaited son that she had failed to conceive. From this union came Ishmael. But God appeared again to Abraham thirteen years later and told him that Ishmael was not the promised son, but that the son through whom his inheritance would come would come from his own wife. Abraham was over a hundred years old and Sarah was ninety. The main artery running all through the Word of God is forever sorting the way of the promise that comes through faith from the works of the law or the natural way of doing things. 

God had given us our first love, the American Saddlebred horse, but we were in a hard place and we had taken matters into our own hands. We had tried to do the practical thing even if it wasn’t what was really in our hearts. We had forgotten that we had asked God years before to teach us to live by faith alone. We had forgotten the promise which always comes through faith. Faith is the title deed of substance yet unseen. The enemy of our souls has his way of laying unusual circumstances in our path, but at their center they contradict the Word of God. We had done as Abraham did long ago when he too had tried to make the promise come by his own plan, the natural way that was at hand. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.” With his aged wife’s encouragement he tried to bring about God’s promise through Hagar, his servant. The promise comes when the entire natural is against it, when Abraham and his wife were way past the natural time of producing a son, the produced one. 

And so I had to give the beautiful and expensive stallion away. 

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 5

Trust, Solomon

Last week I learned another lesson from the farm. Pierre was the giant Charlet bull we borrowed from the Dennys because he refused to stay home when all the cows there were bred. We still had some open cows, so for a while he was content to sojourn at Heathermoor. Because of his stupendous bulk, if he had any notion at all to leave a pasture, he became a clear illustration of the original concept of a bulldozer. He simply crunched any fence in his path, including metal gates. Nothing but electric fences were any barrier to him. He would stand in front of an electric fence and pass his nose back and forth above the fence. By this he could sense whether or not the current was on. If not- watch out fence! His only motivations in life as far as I could see were cows and his insatiable appetite for grain. He had learned that colt kicks and bites were harmless against his insensitive sides so he easily shoved eight yearling colts aside as he inhaled their allotment of 50 pounds of grain a day. 

We didn’t realize what was happening for about a week in which time we noticed the colts appeared to be losing weight. Our only remedy was to remove the colts from the pasture they shared with the cows who had not dared to try to eat with the horses. 

As John was at work and the boys were in school, these jobs usually were mine to do unassisted. By rattling a feed sack I managed to coax the colts to a section of fence I had removed directly across the driveway from the gate to the field we wished to put them. It really took some tact to “sneak” the herd of colts to the gap without Pierre seeing me. To him I only meant buckets. Buckets held grain and if I ever called attention to myself he came lumbering towards me, building up speed until he sometimes reached a lope. The sight of this mammoth white creature with legs as big as trees and a head as big as a buffalo approaching at a walk, much less at speed could cause the strongest heart to falter!

With what I like to think of as extreme finesse, I led the greedy colts through the gap directly into the receiving pasture. The lead colts took their first faltering steps onto the unfamiliar land, their necks bowed, snorting suspiciously at the ground, their tails curled over their backs. Suddenly the leaders bolted toward the new freedom. I relaxed, trusting the powerful herd instinct that binds horses into herds to carry the remainder of the column safely through the gate. But, I didn’t count on one hard headed black filly who from birth had always seemed to be of a different mind from the others. She swerved to the left of the gap and bolted across the front yard. The herding instinct bound the colt Solomon behind her close to her heels. Off the two renegades fled. Tails flagged, noses high as if they knew for certain that they had gotten away with something cool!

But their lark was short-lived for the main herd had galloped out of sight in the new pasture and the black filly soon realized her predicament. There was a fence between her and the rest of the herd. Above all things she wanted the security of the herd. She screamed a call to them and raced madly along the fence followed by Solomon, the little stud. Being the stronger willed of the two, at least in this event, the black filly became Solomon’s security and he stayed glued to her heels. There was another gate close to the feeding shed partly obscured by two large Oregon Grape bushes. I opened the little gate hoping the two yearlings would notice it as they raced along the fence seeking to rejoin their brethren. The black filly saw it and swerved through it home free. She was going so fast little Solomon had passed the gate before he could stop and the bush hid it from his view. Now Solomon was really a frantic colt. 

The only security and comfort his equine heart understood lay in rejoining his brethren galloping in a tight little herd on the other side of the white board fence. He wheeled and charged down the fence following the bunch which had galloped back toward the fence, but again he was going so fast and so frantically that he passed the little gate. Then the herd turned and raced away from the fence down the hill toward the lake, thoroughly enjoying their romp on the exciting new ground. 

A horse’s homing instinct guides them in a straight line toward their destination. They do not seem to fathom the idea of going very far out of their way to go around something. So Solomon was frantically racing back and forth along a little section of the fence where he had last seen his family, lunging into it and whining piteously. All my efforts to herd him to the little gate only ten feet away which would lead him to his heart’s desire were in vain. When I tried to head off he charged through me, when I tried to drive him forward, he lashed at me with both hind feet and caught me squarely in the stomach. 

As I rolled on the ground nursing my injured middle, I called to him, “Solomon you certainly don’t live up to your name. You are not wise at all. Don’t you know by now my only concern for you is for your own good? I want for you just what you want for yourself. If you could just trust me to haze you to the other side of the bush all your troubles would be over. Don’t you know it was I who was with you when you were both? It was I who held you on your contracted legs until the tendon stretched out enough for you to stand? Don’t you know it was I your mother trusted to feed you each day and to scratch your fuzzy little tail? It was I who has fed you every day of your life since then. Haven’t I always taken you to greener, safer pastures? The only times I hurt you were for the shots and worm medicine that saved you from a greater hurt. Even now my only concern for you is your own good. Why won’t you let me save you from this anguish? Don’t you know that I can understand things that you cannot?”

As I resumed the struggle with Solomon I thought how often The Good Shepherd must see me as I saw Solomon. How much He must want us to trust Him, as I wanted to silly colt to trust me. I saw how often we resist Him who is so much wiser than we, when all He wants for us is our own good. If only we could trust Him who created us, who sustains us day by day, who died to redeem us? All this He does so that we would realize the very purpose for which he created us. How often we missed the narrow fate because we were frantically going on ahead of Him, refusing to trust Him, and let Him guide us past the obscuring bushes. How much sweat and anguish and time we could save ourselves if we trustingly followed The Good Shepherd who sees as we do not; who knows our needs better than we do; whose ways are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth. His wisdom and His ways are many times higher than mine were above the panicky colt. 

Lord, give us the wisdom to trust you to guide us even when it totally contradicts our natural senses. Have you not said, “The just shall live by faith?”

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 4

Overcomers

Horses tend to be born overnight. Mares seem to like privacy and almost seem to wait until everyone has given up on their watchful vigil and leaves to get supper or some other interruption. Mares usually foal quite easily and quickly and they seldom have any trouble, unlike the cow who is prone to calving problems. Yet when a mare does have difficulty it is often quite serious unless help is at hand, while cows may need assistance they can endure a lot of trouble before it becomes serious. 

I remember one early spring morning when we had a young mare named Heather ready to deliver her first foal. We kept her in the barn because it was quite cold and this was her first baby. There is more danger in a stall because of the chance of the mare foaling too close to the wall and injuring the foal so we were carefully watching her. Heather began to labor just as the driving group appeared to take our children to school. Love, our daughter, was down at the barn with us hoping to see the seldom seen sight. Thrilled at the thought of getting to see a horse come into the world, the driving group poured into the barn. We let them climb up in the hay loft where they had a bird’s eye view of the event as they leaned over the rafters in rapt attention. 

Shortly the foal appeared, enclosed in a “cellophane” bag. Its little feet wrapped in a padded substance lest it poke a hole in the wonderful “see through” sack it was packed in, came first, one ahead of the other. Then the nose appeared. Another contraction and the shoulders positioned one ahead of the other appeared. Almost instantly the whole foal was safely on the straw still imprisoned in his protective bag. He looked pretty dead at first- which always gave me a fleeting moment of concern. He was wet, his eyes closed and his ears were flattened against his neck in sort of an odd way. Almost immediately the placenta dislodged from its connection to the mare’s body, the sack broke and fell away from the tiny nose and the foal convulsed as it took its first breath of air in the new and strange world from which it had just entered. Instantly processes that had never worked before were in full operation. A valve closed forever in the foal’s heart and the oxygen that had been supplied by the placenta suddenly began to be supplied by the foal’s own lungs as it gasped for its first few breaths. 

The mare who had never foaled before, or even read a book about it, or talked to the older mares about this process, lifted her head to sniff this creature in the stall with her. As she sniffed new and wondrous processes began in her brain. Suddenly all the “knowing” she would ever need to feed and care for this new creation began to activate within her. She nickered low in her throat to tell this miracle baby that had just cost her great pain, that somehow she knew he belonged to her alone. She was prepared to defend him with her life and that somehow she loved him as she licked and crooned to him with soft little knickers. She rested a moment along with the foal as all of the exchanging blood in the placenta drained into the foal’s little body. Suddenly she lounged to her feet, her nose caressing her little one. 

The foal lifted its head, made a soft little bleat and unfolded one long foreleg. Soon another leg that had never been straightened out since its conception in the womb of the mare was in position to attempt the most wonderful feat I could ever imagine. The foal that had appeared to be dead less than thirty moments before, had raised its long neck, looked around at the world he had never seen minutes before with eyes that had never seen and was attempting to stand up on long legs that had never unfolded before. His first attempt was a disaster and he fell forward on his face. Undaunted he tried again, this resulted in a somersault. Then began my struggle to refrain from helping him. But I had learned that all these falls and beginnings were designed by the Creator to help the blood oxygenated by lungs that have never been used until moments ago to circulate and strengthen muscles that have never been used before. The thrashing was also designed to break the attachment of the umbilical cord on the “dotted line,” close to the foal’s body where it had been designed to break. The rough thrashing of the foal would crush the cord in such a way that there would be no leakage of blood as was probable if I had cut it. After many attempts the foal was on its feet balancing in an awkward fashion, looking very much like a daddy longlegs spider and attempting to stagger through the straw. 

Another amazing process began; he was hungry! He held his little nose up high as he ewed his neck from withers to poll (the opposite of this natural head carriage), but necessary to connect with the places where he would eventually find his first meal. His little red tongue was curled even as puppies’ are and he was making sucking sounds! He fully trusted that somewhere on this great warm body of his mother that he would find the milk especially designed for him. He staggered around sucking on her front end, under the great belly, honing in on the smell of the milk as he got to the proper place. It always seemed that these foals would never find the mare’s udder, especially when a new mother would be very ticklish in this area. But, the foals always found it. 

Forcing herself to hold very still Heather arched her back preparing for the agony of that first suck. As the foal continued to explore she continued to forcibly control herself, sometimes uttering little ticklish squeals. This find and getting hold of the milk supply was a very necessary accomplishment, often having life and death circumstances. The colostrum which came before the pale thin milk appeared had all the antibodies necessary to protect the foal from all of the diseases of the environment. 

The children perched on the rafters above had held reverently still as they beheld this miracle of the creation. They had seen the birth of a horse as he came into the world like any other mammal, but inside half an hour he was ready to run with his dam if necessary. Eyes that had never seen, ears that had never heard were thrust into the fullness of life all at once, not gradually awakening to the world as puppies, kittens, and people do! They climbed down from the loft, piled into the car awed by the wonder of life. They were a little late for class but what ever could have compared with this glimpse of the Creator’s work? 

There are so many things I have learned from watching this recurring miracle. It was a careful planning for the Creator as He equipped this new life for its existence in our world. All of the foal’s falls and struggles were designed to strengthen him and teach him how to live in the new world he had just entered. If we had intervened we would have taken away a great deal of his strength. 

The next morning we beheld the wonder of the joy of life as this new little one was let out of the stall. He saw the world for the very first time! He had already been frolicking around the stall so very glad to be freed from the confinement of the womb, but when he was exposed to the outside world he could not contain his joy! His nervous mama tried frantically to keep up with him, swinging her head threateningly at the other horses who might be watching. He bucked and kicked, stopping to curl his fuzzy little tail over his back, lift his nose high in the air and snort his joy to be alive as he raced in increasingly larger circles. 

Our struggles to grow to new levels in this life, painful in themselves, are designed to build our spiritual muscles. Just as the foal would never make it on his own in the wild if it weren’t for all of his struggles in the moments after his birth, so are all of our struggles in this life designed to make our “unused spiritual muscles and systems” strong for the purpose they were given. Did not the Savior promise that it was the “Overcomers who get the prize?” To be an overcomer one must have something to overcome. But look at the results as seen in the foal’s first moments of life. Unspeakable joy and wonder at life! When our training here is over we will enter the wonders of heaven with the same overwhelming joy!

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 3

Worship

This morning as many mornings I returned from a walk through the woods with my Golden Retriever, Holly. When I began to drive in the direction of one of our places we got to “work,” Holly quivered in anticipation. She knew the directions to each place that we went. Her quivering and low whining would increase at every turn that brought us closer to our destination. 

This morning was glorious. A golden light shimmered over the woods and a lovely fresh golden mist rose up from the forest floor. Hardly able to control herself she managed to obey my command to “wait” as I gathered our equipment, put on her leash and opened the door. When I said the magic word, “okay,” she bounded off the seat and into the heel position. We always practiced a little heeling before I turned her loose just as a matter of discipline. Her gaze never left me until we stopped and I released her leash. She would leap in front of me leaping higher and higher until I gave her the bumper. Goldens are seldom happy without something in their mouths to carry. 

Then began an exhilaration in the heart of man and beast that it would be hard to supersede. Off she raced into the woods, her silky tail flagged in the air showing its pale golden underside, like a deer in flight. She disappeared into the woods. In a moment she would return running like a bullet. Oh how fast she was flying! Held earthbound, it seemed, only by her love for me who was so earthbound physically! Off she would go again and my heart soared as high as she sped. I was riding her in spirit, we were flying at the speed of light barely touching the earth, propelled by a joy that was uncontainable! 

Back to me she flew, coming to an abrupt stop at my feet holding up her bumper in her mouth. As glorious as was her physical freedom it only lacked the inclusion of me, the fellowship that she desired more than her wild freedom. I took the bumper and tossed it as far as I could. She flew after it almost turning head over heels skidding to a stop right upon it. 

The next phase of our game came as we approached the brook which had wonderful pools and little rapids and rocky, steep banks as it sped along. Bumper in mouth she raced to a place beside the swift stream, waiting for her human friend to catch up. She tossed the bumper at my feet and we began the next step in our game. I threw the bumper as far as I could into the creek. She bolted as soon as it left my hand and leapt over the rocky bank diving into the fast moving water and swimming to the floating bumper. She grabbed it gently in her mouth and began her swim to shore. My heart swelled as I saw her perceive the best way to climb out of the creek which she had entered on unseen wings even as she swam, and in a flash she delivered the bumper to my feet, her eyes hypnotizing my gaze until we repeated the process. 

I never ceased to wonder as I saw the keenness of her appraisal of the situations we confronted. It took some flash sensing on her part as the physical situations were never the same. Her determination to accomplish the purpose for which she was bred utterly amazed me. Sometimes I would forget to bring the bumper and a stick had to suffice. The current was moving fast as she hit the water where the stick had fallen, but the current had swept it away. She swam back and forth frantically searching, looking among the rocks and debris along the bank. Finally, she began to dive into the shallow water searching for that stick. She pulled up one stick from the bottom immediately rejecting it. It was not the stick that I had thrown which she knew only by the fact that it had touched my hand for the brief second before I threw it in. And, though it had submerged in water her sense of smell was so impossibly keen that the only stick that would do was the exact one that held my scent which her keen nose could detect. So she kept searching. Usually she would find the exact one and triumphantly deliver it to my feet. Sometimes the stick had disappeared forever, and it seemed she could not give up and I would have to call her repeatedly to tell her to call off the search. She came obediently to my feet looking at me with questioning eyes. I had to respond with another stick trying to convince her that she had not failed. 

As our time came to an end and she heeled back to my car my heart was soaring. I kept thinking of the joy of life that she showed to me. Just the unadulterated joy of being alive and having a body that followed her spirit into wonderful feats. I kept thinking of the harmony she had with her surroundings. The beauty of the woods; the changing form of the stream; the great diversity of the shapes and colors of the wonders of the season. And most of all the obedience and desire of this animal for communion with me. 

Most people think of “worship” as singing songs in a church or meeting, and that is sometimes true. Yet, I had never encountered a worship that brought me to my knees and overwhelmed me with the wonder of the Creator who had let me be a part of it, and let me see so gloriously some of His attributes revealed in His creation, as I have had in my adventures with this little dog. Oh my God, how great thou art! 

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 2

Springtime

The light had been increasing. The short days of winter were lengthening only minutes a day. Already a miracle was beginning. Beneath autumn’s rotting leaves and the pasture’s grassy blanket rendered dead and brown by winter’s cold, little shoots were beginning to unfold. Old roots that appeared so lifeless and little seeds decaying beneath the surface felt the still unseen touch of light as our side of the earth turned her face closer to the sun seconds longer each day. 

Out of the sight of man or beast the mystery of the resurrection was beginning to unfold. Almost imperceptibly at first, but increasing each day the old dead root began to convert its dormant energy into white growth. The husk of the dead seed burst open and tiny white shoots began to press upward through the warming earth as it yearned for the sun’s light. Almost instantly the “non” color of the emerging life turned to a beautiful golden green as it burst through the earth’s surface and unfurled its tiny white leaf. Then suddenly a crocus burst into flower to announce to the otherwise brown earth that the miracle had begun. Life was overcoming death! Spring had begun!

The almost imperceptible increasing of the light spoke something into the horse’s bodies and their long woolly hair began to loosen and come off. The horses rolled massaging their itching bodies between the firmness of the ground and their own powerful muscles. Lurching to their feet they shake themselves violently to reveal patches of beautiful satiny hides, richer and deeper in color than at any time of the year; their dead winter hair left behind in furry patches on the ground. To me, these shiny coats were like the Easter dresses Mother clothed us with on Resurrection Day. The horses joined this celebration when Spring clothed the sleeping earth with life. 

As the green grass came forth in the pastures little calves and colts began to appear. We had little Charlet calves. Their coats were as white as snow, so clean and new. New and clean and awed and joyous of spirit the colts and calves frolicked about, playing and bucking and running. What a contrast their young lives were to the mature mares! Mellowed by the weight of years and the cares of life, which to them consisted of gathering green grass to be turned into white milk for their greedy offspring and protecting their babies from the dangers their youthfulness couldn’t comprehend. Most of the dams seemed very sedate, but sometimes they would hurry about mumbling rumbles of deep worry in their throats as they chased their rejoicing offspring.

For the barren mares, the miracle of increasing light whispered to the bodies to prepare to reproduce, for life is ever struggling with death and God’s creation is always seeking restoration as it declares His truth. 

The stallion is clothed in the richest of all the satin coats, for his coat has a deeper pigmentation than the other horses. His spirit is in turn with creation. He arches his neck which Job said was, “clothed with thunder and his snorting is the glory of his nostrils and he paweth the valley and rejoices in his strength and he mocks at fear” as he challenges the other stallions for the right to create life. 

Spring came and our beautiful mares foaled their beautiful foals. We were faced with the problem of breeding them back. Richlieu was a beautiful stallion, but his pedigree was old fashioned and to get into the mainstream market we needed to breed our mares to a stallion with a currently fashionable pedigree. But, then again, money was the problem. We would just have to breed the mares to Richlieu. One morning Richlieu was startled by the blacksmith coming around the barn, reared up, fell over backwards, and broke his neck. 

Now what were we going to do? We remembered the supernatural provision that had awaited us at every turn. There was nothing to do but expect it again. We would take a trip around the whole Eastern US and look at every likely stud prospect and every standing stallion. We would not say anything about money. So we spent two weeks looking at horses. We were somewhat disappointed with what we saw. None had the gorgeous head and eyes that Richlieu had, and none compared with Blanchita’s Society Rex which we had bred to Mallie. And, no money rained from heaven. So we went home disappointed with our problem still intact. Spring was still a ways off and we plotted and planned but all our deals fell through. 

Then one day Bob called. “Do you want Rex?” he began. Rex was a difficult horse and Bob made moral judgments against horses as if they were humans. He had turned Rex out and Rex had injured Bob. That was unpardonable with Bob. “I have had it with him and you can have him if you will come get him.” I was amazed. People didn’t give away properties worth that much! Bob had turned down a huge offer for a breeding horse in that day, shortly before. That horse was worth more than a farm. I couldn’t believe that anyone would give away property of that value. But then God is the God of the impossible and had He not met us at every turn with an unsuspected miracle? So we hooked up the trailer that day and drove to Franklin, Tennessee before Bob would have time to change his mind. As we drove home that night with one of the greatest studs in the Saddlebred world in our trailer, we were in awe! Our God, how great Thou art!

We had four colts the next spring. We trained them and sold them as two-year-olds, which is another story. Two years later when the colts were four years old, we went to Louisville, Kentucky to the World Championship Horse Show to see the first fruits of a story completely lived by faith. The first rider of these colts had been our young daughter whose life had also taken the same trail as ours and was going to prove anew the power of a Godward life soon after we returned home. 

Crystal Springs was Reserve World Champion Junior horse and Lad O’Shea was World Champion 5-Gaited Juvenile Horse. In the years ahead he would also be the World Champion 5-Gaited Ladies and World Champion 5-Gaited Amateur horse besides many other great wins. When Rex died a couple of years later he was the 5th ranking Saddlebred stud in the United States. 

Guard well your dreams because someday they might come true! With God all things are possible if only you believe. 

Springtime on Heathermoor Farm was a continuous worship experience to me every time I walked through the yard. Every tree burst into full bloom at the same time, all but the giant elm tree whose bare black branches showed the tiniest signs of promised life. The crab apple trees were all shades of pink, from deep watermelon to pale pink to nearly white. The glorious trees formed a cloud all around the house and yard. While the trees were blooming we had green grass instead of the usual splotched green of winter weeds against the brown of summer grass. As if touched by a fairy’s wand, the grass came out suddenly in emerald green. It was like a rich new carpet under the many pink clouds of the varieties of crab apple, cherry, and peach trees, the red bud and the white pear trees. 

Every morning I awoke to the symphony of birds. It seemed that there were over a hundred birds singing a symphony to this glorious celebration of life! No matter what my mood or how I was feeling, I never awoke to this sight without a profound sense of worship. I always took a trip down to the “secret garden,” trying to inhale this beauty before I went to the barn each morning. 

Scientists tell us that light is everywhere at once. It is omnipresent. Understanding light is science’s last great barrier. Light is the key to understanding time. To travel at the speed of light would make one immortal. Light is three colors fused into one. Light is the only constant in the universe, it never changes. Light focused is the powerful laser. Light triggers the cycle of life as it calls the sleeping creation back to life each spring!

The Bible tells us that God is the Father of Light and with Him is no variation or shadow of turning. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The only constant. He alone is immortal, dwelling in unapproachable light. He is omnipresent. He is the great three in one! And he richly furnishes us with all things to enjoy. 

The natural things do indeed speak of the supernatural. 

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Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 1

Adventure

Do you like adventure stories? 

They usually begin with a dream of something that you want to find, or a place you want to go, or a mystery you want to solve. The trail leads through many different situations. Sometimes it goes up a steep mountain and the path is dangerously close to the edge. A misstep would be dangerous. Sometimes it passes through a grassy meadow where there is lightness of heart and seemingly not a care in the world… Giants walk onto the scene. These terrible and powerful creatures attack and there is a big battle- doubts, depression, questions. 

After a while you realize that you are not alone on this adventure. You can’t see this mysterious presence, but you know that He is there. There was help beyond yourself to win that battle! Now the trail winds through a forest which is mysteriously beautiful and full of wonder yet it suddenly becomes a desert and there is no water. The heat gets awful and the scenery gets monotonous, but you are determined to find what you are looking for, so you keep pushing on.

Every now and then there is an amazing breakthrough and you more clearly see the prize which you are seeking. This energizes you to keep on going when the clouds roll in and you cannot see a foot ahead. You must keep pushing through the darkness responding to the unseen desire of your heart, till finally you find the treasure and it is yours forever. 

Eventually you discover that you are not the same person as the one who began the journey. You are strong. You have become a warrior. There is no fear. There is great confidence. There is now a clear concept of the treasure. Having seen it you know it is yours. You discover a company of people that are seeking the same treasure that you are, but they have come from different directions. Yet they have gone through all of the dangers that you have and they too are not the same people as they were when they began the journey. This treasure is so wonderful that there is enough for all of you. In fact, there are so many aspects of this treasure that you each discover that there is an aspect of it that is especially made for you and no one else, just as the fingerprints of each of you are different from anyone else who was ever created!

Suddenly you realize that the treasure is the great King Himself for whom all things are made! Who holds the atom itself together by the word of his power. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, the mystery that has been hidden since the world began. He is the one in whom all the fullness of God has been revealed in bodily form. His name is Jesus! 

I had been searching for this treasure in many ways since I was a very little girl. In fact from my earliest memories. This was strangely tied up with the love of a horse. As I became a wife and a mother my husband and I wanted to be able to share with people the wonders we were finding in this fellowship with the Great King. We asked God to give us a story that by the very facts of it we could prove to others that the God of the Bible was who He claimed to be. 

We began our adventure when we moved our family of four small children from our “regular life” that was like everyone else’s, from our home on Heathermoor Road in Mountain Brook to a tiny farm in Rocky Ridge. We took with us the name Heathermoor and thus began the saga of Heathermoor Farm. It wasn’t long before we had outgrown our five acres. We had acquired a small herd of one stallion and three mares. We began yearning for a bigger farm where we could increase our herd, but we had no money with which to buy one. 

I remembered a verse my 7th grade Bible teacher had taught us:

“Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

She said that if God was first in your life He would give you the desire itself as well as the object of it. So we prayed that if this desire was indeed from God that He would have to give us the object of it because we had no money to bring it about ourselves. 

We had only prayed this way for a few weeks when John’s boss came to him and told him that he had found a farm in Leeds that was for sale at such a bargain price that he wanted to buy it for an investment. He would have to keep it for years until its investment potential was ripe. But he couldn’t do that without someone to live there and keep it up for him. He said it would be ours totally to build and plant until the appointed time. Would we be willing to do that? We were so excited that God had answered our prayers in such a hurry. So we moved our little herd of children and horses to Leeds taking with us the name Heathermoor, where we lived for 25 years.

The beautiful 100 acre farm had once been a show place, but had fallen into disrepair as the family had slowly died off. We set about to restore it. We decided that we needed to buy a few new mares to breed to Richlieu, our beautiful stallion that we had traded a heifer for to an aging lady on a farm in Tennessee. She could no longer care for him. 

The prevailing theory at that time was that if a mare didn’t make a show horse she would be a broodmare. We had been taught by our mentor, Bob Smith, who owned the wonderful stallion, Blanchita’s Society Rex, “That John D. Rockefellow couldn’t afford to own a sorry horse. It doesn’t cost anymore to feed a world’s champion than it does a nag!” he would say. Our budget was in the nag category so we went looking at local mares. Five times for five different mares, when we began to write a check, the owners suddenly decided they didn’t want to sell them to us only to sell them to someone else a week later!

What was God trying to tell us? Maybe he was directing us to Bob’s advice. We took a trip to Memphis, Tennessee to look at some mares that a well known trainer had. They led out three mares. They were all beautiful. Two were the most beautiful and well bred mares we had ever seen. Plus one had a foal by Rex and was in foal again to him. But, we couldn’t afford them so we ended up with the lesser mare. We took her back to Birmingham with her breeder’s certificate in hand guaranteeing her to be in foal. The next day after we got home she was in heat. We had not bargained for an empty broodmare so we had to return her. 

What was God trying to tell us? It certainly seemed He was directing us to the two most gorgeous mares. They couldn’t be sold apart so we would have to take them both or not at all. Our guidance seemed clear. We used the barren mare as a down payment and signed a note for the balance. We called our mentor Bob Smith to tell him what we had done. There was silence on the phone when slowly we heard, “I would have given anything to own those mares but he would never sell them.”

God is faithful!

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Donor Spotlight- In Their Words

You know how a box of Valentine’s Day chocolate is like a gamble? Like a gamble that you ALWAYS win because ALL of the chocolates are delicious? That’s kind of what our donors are like. We have lots of different flavors of donors, and they’re all precious to us!

Colleen and Jackson
“I support and volunteer at The Red Barn because I’ve seen first hand the incredible difference that horse therapy has made in the lives of these children. I have witnessed improvement in balance, core strength and social skills. Of equal importance is seeing their pride and confidence grow as they participate in the various programs. This truly is a place of faith, hope, and love. Keep up the great work!” Colleen Samples, Volunteer & Donor

There are event sponsors, monthly donors at all levels, end-of-year donors, Facebook donors, Facebook birthday fundraisers, memorial and honoraria donors, people who give up their birthday money to support the barn, family foundations that give monthly, family foundations that give a few times a year, small businesses that donate, large businesses that donate, people who give through their employer’s United Way campaign. The list could go on forever!

So what do all of these amazing supporters have in common? Our donors love the mission, love the people, and LOVE seeing how impactful their donations are in the lives of our students!

Naturally, we need to hear it “from the horse’s mouth.” We asked, “Why do you give?”

“I give because of the huge difference The Red Barn makes in the lives of their students and the families that benefit from the impact.”

“The needs that are met by the staff and resources at The Barn are too numerous for me to name, but the number of people who reap the benefits more than justify any donation.”

“If you visit and observe how many people invest in each child, each horse, and each lesson one would come away so impressed and grateful!  Everything is handled and planned for on such an organized and professional level. I am challenged to do something in response.”

“Their mission, the level of quality, the way they impact lives.”

“I know the people and ministry behind the Red Barn. I trust in their calling and know God is making a difference in families because of The Red Barn.”

“The great impact the programs have on families and the need to serve more families.

The heart of these donors is to make a difference, make an IMPACT in the lives of our students and their families. All of our staff, parents, volunteers, and students are so very grateful. Take a moment and watch some videos of life-changing transformations on our YouTube channel today! And if you find yourself inspired to give any amount, give here.

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What Are Red Barn Staff Members Thankful For?

While there may not be enough room on the internet for ALL our people are thankful for, we are going to give it a shot! The Red Barn has an extremely grateful staff.

Joy (AKA Mama Joy) is thankful:

  • When I meet someone in the community and they tell me they’ve heard about someone who has benefitted from our programs.
  • When everyone pitches in to make sure the stalls get cleaned and all the envelopes get addressed.
  • When everyone works together and we fly like The Blue Angels.
  • When people say they are praying for us.
  • When the temperature doesn’t get below freezing so we don’t have to worry about pipes freezing.
  • When we are able to get the horses all in before it starts raining cats and dogs.
  • For the wagon that helps us carry the shavings to the stalls.
  • When someone drops off a whole load of supplies that they’ve been collecting and it’s exactly what we need. There are no coincidences!
  • For loyal friends who stick together to share faith, hope, and love.
  • For BIG fans in the lower barn.

Sylvie says that she is thankful for:

  • Finalizing the adoption with Daisa and having her as my sister.
  • Having an amazing family willing to love everyone no matter what.
  • Having a dad I am proud of, and being able to work with him here.
  • Having an amazing family let me keep my horses at their property so I get to see them every day.
  • Friends that, even when they move 12 hours away, stay in touch with you and come and visit.
  • An amazing staff that is willing to help teach me AND an amazing workplace that cares so much about their staff and their horses! It’s been really amazing to get to do what I have always wanted to do and have coworkers that are so tightly knit. They always have your back and are willing to take the extra second to explain something to you or help you- on or off the clock!
  • Last but not least, I am thankful for God and the number of people in my life that show his unconditional love!

Continue reading What Are Red Barn Staff Members Thankful For?