Where Did Everybody Go?
Even before Anne and I stepped out in complete faith to follow God and create Brave Sky Ranch, I missed having horses I could hang with every day. I was very inexperienced around horses, though I’d spent time with them for years, so I extensively researched horse behavior. My research helped less than I expected, and truthfully, much of my current knowledge and experience has resulted from actual trial and error. But God has been gracious: He brought the right people at the right time to help us locate and purchase/adopt some very good horses.
I am continually reminded that “God’s got this!” How do I know this is true?
I know by continual proof that God’s always got this — whatever “this” happens to be. He’s got a plan and a story that shines with His wisdom, love and care. He loves us far beyond anything we can imagine.
I wanted to share with you how God brought these horses to us and the impact they had on us and our clients… and where these equine friends are now. God provided wonderful new homes for them after rehabilitation with us. I tell their stories here in random order. In total, we had 12 horses over a period of 4 years. God consistently provided all funds necessary when purchasing and feeding our horses. We provided a safe place and temporary home that showed them the love they deserved, no matter how long they stayed with us. Here are their stories.
Liberty is a special horse in Anne’s heart - a mix of Paint, Appaloosa, Roan, and Bay. She was the very first horse we ever owned, buying her the first fall we lived in Idaho.
She didn’t trust easily, and it took her a long time to acclimate to people coming into her personal space; we took our time gaining her trust over the next couple of years, and she blossomed before our eyes. As a strong and opinionated horse, Liberty wouldn’t let anyone boss her around, whether their intent was to help or to control. Anne learned to remove personal expectations and previous experience — to let go of control — to take one step at a time, embrace God’s change, and go with the flow, all skills that also applied to her life regarding our marriage, our kids, and our future clients. Anne’s life changed when she realized that what was best for Liberty was more important than her own ideas of what was best for herself.
When Liberty joined our herd, she suffered from a mild knee injury which rendered her unsuitable for riding, so we reserved her for groundwork programs at Brave Sky Ranch. She was especially adept at helping humans become selfless and compassionate. Due to Brave Sky’s future mobile plans, traveling often in a horse trailer would be difficult for Liberty, and though her leg had benefited from therapeutic methods, she would be very uncomfortable. Through much seeking of God’s desire in the matter, He led us to offer her for adoption. We waited longer than expected to find her a suitable adoptive home, but God had it all planned out, and Liberty went to a wonderful home that could care for her and her physical issue. When she went to her new home with her new owners, she was happy and content to go with them. I am thankful and amazed to look back on how Liberty grew over the few years she shared with us.
Freya was a wild mustang that came to us through the same middleman as Liberty. She was a beautiful bay horse rescued by a program that cared for pregnant horses. They discovered that Freya had miscarried her foal and no longer qualified to stay with them. We agreed to keep her on our property and keep her safe. She was very untrusting and had very little direct contact with humans, and we never were able to touch her. Occasionally we were able to get within 5 feet of her, but that was okay because, again, God had a different plan. Freya was adopted by a wonderful and patient man in the local area, and in a few weeks he had worked hard to gain her trust — she became a wonderful horse for this gentleman and she also helped him through some things.
Winter was a very unique, laidback, almost lazy horse. Bought at age 14, she quickly became the Alpha mare in our growing herd. We initially bought her for Anne to learn to ride, but because life happened, Anne never ended up riding her. Winter became a big part of our programs at Brave Sky Ranch. She was incredibly calm with riders, and proved to be very safe to ride. Winter’s favorite thing was to eat, and she was always the first to the food. From young to old, she helped humans of all ages, and she especially enjoyed treats, brushings, and scratchings. She was known for being an excellent and patient canvas for finger painting events with kids.
God had yet another plan for her, leading us to put Winter up for adoption when the time was right. I began screening potential homes for her, but she acted out of character every time a potential owner came. I saw this as a sign that this was not the right person for her. Keep in mind - Winter was so laid back and super chill that for her to act up around anyone was strange. I got a call from a lady who needed a new horse after experiencing a bad accident. She wasn’t able to ride Winter to try her out, but she had a friend who could ride and test Winter for her, as well as another friend who had very little horse riding experience. Both friends test rode Winter, both with and without a saddle, and she carried them both with ease — she was finally herself, the laidback horse I had come to know and love.
HAVEN (GOLD CAY)
Haven was very special to me, extremely near and dear to my heart.
We saw her listed on Craigslist and made a deal on her. We picked her up and took a week to get her integrated into our herd. We placed Haven and Atlas (our Alpha) together in our open 14 acre field. They ran their hearts out, paced together and turned together. It was true beauty to watch, and no words could ever describe it accurately. Suddenly, Haven ran in a straight line toward a fence and instead of stopping short, she gracefully leapt over the fence and into the road — a busy major thoroughfare in the country. There wasn’t a car anywhere to be found on a busy road during rush hour, again proving that God has got us (and His horses!) in His hand.. As cars appeared, their drivers were shockingly vigilant and careful, choosing to helpfully stop and block oncoming traffic in all directions — each car’s driver got out and helped us push Haven back into the gated area. God saved this horse for us to buy and then saved her when she jumped the fence into what was usually rush-hour traffic.
Haven was a fun-loving horse, outgoing, full of life and energy, and she loved to play games but was also very happy to just hang out. She was a handful when we initially got her, but, like all the other horses, she calmed down about 6 months after herd integration. After many attempts to try and re-register Haven into our names, her previous owner still couldn’t find her paperwork. God had big plans for this incredible horse. I rode her only once and it was a lot of fun, but I had a lot of time with her on the ground. She loved to be next to me. She also loved to be the center of attention, very much like myself. She taught me so much about myself and about life.
After a couple of years in the Brave Sky Ranch program, we began to see God’s plan for His ministry a little bit clearer — a large scale program was not the direction God was moving us into. Haven’s previous owner contacted us a few times over the years to be sure we knew that if we ever needed to rehome her, she would love to have her back. When we realized the direction in which Brave Sky was headed, we contacted Haven’s former owner to see if she still wanted Haven back — she jumped at the chance to have her again. You can read her story HERE. It finally made sense why God never allowed us to find and change Haven’s registration paperwork. God wanted Haven's former owner to have her again.
THE TWINS (FINN & LEGEND)
Finn and Legend were a pair of American Shetland ponies that we bought from a friend who needed some money, so Anne and I asked God for direction, and within a couple of weeks God provided the funds to purchase them. We initially hoped to train them to pull carts. They looked and acted very much like twins but were unrelated, though they were the perfect matched pair. They integrated into our herd without any issues and were like the little brothers that never grew up.
After a few months, we realized that God didn’t intend for us to keep them because He only gave us enough money to buy them and care for them until the next owner came along. We were meant to treat them with respect and then wait for His leading as he prepared their forever home. We sought God’s direction and plan for the Twins and we knew that they couldn’t be split up. I began screening potential families to adopt them as a pair, and along came a very nice family with three kids who were looking for a pair of ponies that would love their kids. The Twins took a liking to their kids quickly, and 2 weeks after taking the ponies home, this new family had the Twins riding! God had perfectly planned for these ponies, and prepared them for the family who needed them. I was honored to adopt them and prep them for their new forever home.
We found Phoenix, who was not doing well on trail rides with strangers, as well as a leg injury that made riding painful for him, so the owners offered him up for sale (and sold him and another of their horses to us as a package deal).
We brought Phoenix home, trimmed his hooves and saw his leg issues clear up within the week. He was a reserved, somewhat-private creature who had loads of potential but he had often been so struck with fear that he froze in place, and humans would goad him until he moved where they wanted. He initially resisted the goading but eventually exploded after enough pressure and made a habit of the cycle.
Once we addressed his fears and found a way to help him relax, we would often find him laying in the pasture soaking up the sunshine. He was so calm and trusting of Anne that he wouldn’t even bother to lift his head to eyeball her as she approached, and he would let her lay with him as her pillow. He is the only horse we’ve had to date that did this.
When it was time to find him a new home, God brought a retired gentleman who had recently suffered the sudden loss of his longtime partner, a 16-year-old horse. I heard his story and saw his softness and demeanor when meeting Phoenix for the first time. After a conversation about Phoenix’s personality and explaining how he processed fear, I saw the two of them ease into a relaxing partnership. Phoenix went home with his new owner and was released into the new paddock; he would regularly find his new owner and seek his attention. The new owner kept in touch with me, giving me progress updates and pictures. I am so grateful that God directed us to rescue Phoenix, and that we were able to help him relax. Brave Sky was able to prepare him for the man who needed a new partner in order to again enjoy life on the trails.
Rinnah was the second horse in the “package deal" that gave us Phoenix. She had quite an interesting background: the previous owners told us she was used as a broodmare, and they had bought her to intending to train her to move cattle but had decided to sell her. So I worked out a deal, and God again supplied the funds to secure both her and Phoenix.
I went up to pick up both horses and spent a couple weeks integrating them into the herd. We chose to name her Rinnah, which meant “shout of joy” because we were joyful to be able to help her and give her a place of safety and peace. She integrated without issues and over the course of a year we saw her become more relaxed and more trusting with humans. When we first bought her she was not very excitable, but as a part of a balanced herd she had become even more relaxed and sought out being near people.
God had a beautiful purpose for us in adding Rinnah to our herd and working with her for a year - He had a home prepared for her. All he needed from me was to trust Him with the little bit of money we had left and purchase her. She moved to her current home, and God started immediately using her in a big way. Rinnah’s new owner’s granddaughter needed a horse who would bring her joy.
Danté was donated to Brave Sky, an incredibly friendly creature who loved children and adored human attention. He was very short in height but uniquely shaped; he had a normal horse-shaped body, neck and head, but his legs were disproportionately shorter than other horses. His height technically considered him a pony but he didn’t look it (a pony is a full-grown equine shorter than 4’10”).
Danté had been rescued twice — first from a young man who used him only once a year (which left the poor horse neglected and in need of serious hoof and leg care), and again he was rescued as the lady who took him in couldn’t afford to care for his unforeseen extensive leg injuries. She contacted us at Brave Sky to see if he would be helpful in our program. As we sought God’s direction, he instantly told us to take him in — “I have a plan for him.” No one knew what the horse’s name originally was. We named him Danté, meaning “enduring,” because he endured so much in his life but his determination and gusto for life were as strong as ever — he was still positive and content. He integrated well with our growing herd and even became best buddies with Haven.
When God said it was time to find a new family to adopt Danté, it wasn’t quick finding a serious family that would be able to tend to his leg issues, but God’s plan unfolded the way He wanted it to. A family with many generations of horse experience looked at Danté and understood everything that was needed to keep him in optimum health and continue his treatments towards continued healing. God always had the right family to take Danté in and love on him the way he needed it. After about a month of keeping in touch with regular progress reports, his injuries had almost completely healed up, and he was being used for trail rides and short rides for kids. God knew who would be able to care for this horse the best and help set him up for many years of continued success.
I love how our God works! Each of these success stories is just another example of how God has us in His hand, safe and sound. His plan will unfold as He sees fit, in the best possible way as long as we’re following His direction and seeking Him first.
We have nothing to worry about when we’re where He wants us, and we can trust Him completely. God hand-picked each horse’s new owner with great care. How special God’s plan for each of them was!
We watched facet after facet of God’s plan unfold in front of us when it came to Brave Sky and the future of these horses. I am continually amazed at how He has given me the opportunity to be a part of His plan. I cannot say how much I love my God and how He works.
All my expectations and imaginings of Brave Sky were a far, far cry from the plans God actually had. I have since realized and accepted that His plan is not my plan, and my understanding is not His understanding.
Halo is, sadly, a far different story. And for good reason. She was a very tough case and nearly impossible at times. She was very fearful but on the flip side, she could be very loving and affectionate. She had been with her previous owner for a decade — they had ridden her a handful of times when they had first gotten her but eventually left her in the paddock for the remainder of her years with them until they couldn’t handle her at all anymore and they gave her away. She was a big powerful horse who would be compliant when haltered and on a lead, but in the paddock she was nearly impossible to catch, and sometimes we couldn’t even get within 5 feet of her, depending on the day. She never integrated into the herd — she dominated and caused imbalance. She was very aggressive and sometimes impatient with other horses, especially some of the herd. Halo caused injuries in some of our other horses and became aggressive toward humans when she wanted something.
She became so aggressive with our herd that I pulled her out of the open paddock, which wasn’t easy. She didn’t take direction from anyone unless she was on a lead. It took me 90 minutes to catch her as I rode an ATV and Anne was on foot, herding Halo into the smaller corral. Once she was on a lead and halter, we were able to walk her to the barn and into a stall. We worked with her daily to help her recognize that Anne and I were the alphas of this new “herd” (which consisted solely of her and us) — it was necessary for her to learn that it was not acceptable to be aggressive with any human or horse. Her aggression could have crippled any of our horses, and could’ve killed any human.
Months of daily work were spent with Halo to help unwind her aggressive behaviors, but it was soon evident that she would never fully be integrated into our herd. Ten years of her life alone and learning to control her surroundings and humans had pushed her into a major imbalance. We never gave up on her, but we knew that Brave Sky Ranch programs were not the place for her. It was a hard decision, but God had a plan for her even if it wasn’t with us. A friend with a horse ranch planned to continue training Halo. She was never a lost cause, but because of the disrespect and neglect she suffered, the remaining years of her life are uncertain.
Was It A Mistake?
Here’s the thing: looking back at all the smoothness we experienced with all horses we had before Halo, and then seeing roadblock after roadblock with Halo, I finally realized that Halo was the only horse I never actually asked God whether we should adopt — there was no money involved, so rescuing her seemed obvious. This serves to show how God’s plan for Brave Sky Ranch never included Halo in our herd, but He allowed us to make a choice that taught us valuable lessons: 1) always consult the plan’s Creator to ensure we are where He wants us headed, and 2) continually consult Him as we continue down the path.
Did we make a mistake? Not outright, but It would have worked out much better if we had sought God’s direction, and it would have been safer for us and our other horses if we had. We didn’t consult God in adopting Halo but He still protected us all and provided for us, even when we stumbled. There were definitely consequences for bringing her into our herd without His direction, but we gained incredible amounts of experience and wisdom because of our choices.
Every ministry that serves people must allow God to mold, shape, grow, and change that ministry as needed in order to do the most good with the most power. He is the only one that can empower us to serve and reach our fullest potential. He’s the only power that can help humans and turn lives around permanently.
We originally thought Brave Sky would be a ranch with property and all the trimmings, but we’ve since realized it was never meant to be that. What we’re supposed to be doing is so much more involved than anything we could’ve ever imagined. We’re not doing anything we originally thought God was setting us up to do. We thought certain things were the next logical step on the path, and we automatically placed our expectations before God’s expectations. This never works. Brave Sky was never meant to be a horse rescue, and yet we followed God’s direction and rescued horses. For a while, we were much more busy rescuing and rehabilitating horses than we were working with humans, against our expectations. In the process of us rescuing these horses, all the humans we met and whose lives were impacted by these horses would never have been forever changed if we’d refused to act as God directed.
The only way this ministry works is if I’m continually consulting the One who hired me to do it. God is my boss, and this is not my ministry, it’s His. I follow His direction, not my own. This wisdom has not come easily or quickly, and it has taken years for me to realize the power with which He propels His ministry and the value of His direction to do so.
God used the skills He taught me to adopt in and rehabilitate horses, and then adopt them out to humans who needed what these horses can offer. Through my following His direction, God used my obedience to impact the lives of those around us. His power enabled much more impact than we ever could have imagined or executed on our own, trying to fulfill our own expectations. Brave Sky Ranch is not ours - it is God’s. We run this ministry as He sees fit, affording the most power and effectiveness for the short time we have to serve those on this Earth.
Now I want to leave you with a question: Are your expectations realistic as you imagine what God may ask you to do, or as you listen for His direction and leading? Or are you handicapping God and telling Him how you want to do things instead?
*** To hear how Atlas and Cash came to Brave Sky and the impact they’ve made, click here: https://www.braveskyranch.com/post/stories-of-brave-sky-horses-part-2 ***