Inspiring Work with Great Satisfaction
I have a soft spot for people with passion and the guts to jump head on into life’s most challenging dreams. So when I heard the story from my wife TJ about this ranch a bit up in White Oaks Georgia, where a couple with a number of volunteers take in rescue horses, I knew I wanted to do a story on them. I fight for animals and I’m happy that we live in a community where most of us cherish pets. There are numerous organizations that do their best to care for them and give them a life. But attacking the concept of rescuing horses demands very special people, which is why I asked Kraig of the Melissa N Kraig Anthony’s Equine Rescue of South Georgia to send me a story about their 8-month-old journey into an inspiring new life chapter. Here is their story.
It was a Tuesday, about 11:30 am. I am sitting at my desk, working, at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, when the phone rings. I pick it up and go through the normal routine of who I am and what shop I work for, only to be answered by my wife, Melissa, sobbing, “Georgia Department of Agriculture is here; he is looking at our horses; someone called them and told them we don’t feed them, they are all starving to death, and we leave them standing in their feces all day long in the barn.”
“Okay, okay,” I say, trying to process it all. “Well, do we feed our horses?” I ask, trying to sound curious. “Yes!” she replies, slightly louder than I wished. “Do we leave them standing in their feces all day, in the barn?” I ask, again trying to sound curious. “No!” she yells once more. “Then let the man look around; he will tell you if he has any issues and that will be done,” I reply, trying to encourage her.
“Okay,” she says meekly. “I just don’t want them to take our horses.”
“They are not going to take our horses. They have no valid reason to take them. Answer the man’s questions and show him around. Listen to what he has to say and we will go from there,” I say reassuringly.
We hang up the phone and I return to work, wondering at the weird train of events that would lead to this happening and how it is that my life sometimes seems like a tweener novel.
An hour later, sitting at the same desk, my phone rings again; the caller ID shows my wife’s cell phone number, well here we go: “Hello beautiful, how are you?” I ask, waiting as any man would, for the tone of the first word because that is the indicator that tells us what the conversation that follows is going to be like. “They want us to be a rescue, can you believe that?” she says. I can see the smile on her face though I am sitting some 40 minutes by car away from her.
Now my mind is racing once more, this time for a different reason, an actual reason. A rescue: that sounds like a lot of horses. I feel like one of those guys in the Twix commercials. “Need a break?” Yes please, I reply. “Let’s talk about it when I get home.” Sigh of relief. Needless to say we talked about it, we prayed about it, we researched it, and here we are now, seven months later.
We got much more than I thought I would
I remember thinking about all the lucky horses that would come to us to be rescued. They would love us and be so grateful that we had “rescued” them. Now I know that it was not only them that were in need of the rescue. God has a plan for all that He does. I don’t know who it was that made the call that sent Georgia’s Agricultural Department to us, but if you are reading this I would like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart and with my deepest gratitude.
Since we have started to work with these beautiful spirits, a change has come over us. They have warmed the deepest parts of our very lives and taught us what it means to be human again. The entire time that we think that we are teaching them and helping them work out their knots and kinks, they are doing the same for us. They have brought the most amazing people into our lives, those that understand what in life truly matters.
For this reason, when we were looking for a theme for the rescue, a short summary of what we are about, we decided on “Investing in Life”. Not just the life of the horses, but in people as well. We found that where we had a small dream, owning and working with horses, God had a much bigger one, one that involved the healing of broken hearts not just in the horses, but as much in the people that take the time to interact with them, as well.
Over the past week I have been reflecting on our journey thus far. Many of the horses that we get in here come to us starved, neglected, abused, hurting, lost, confused and ready to give up. Many of them have forgotten how to act and what it means to be a horse. Many times they are weak and unable to walk across the pasture more than once or twice during the day. They don’t kick their heels up or throw their heads, they just kinda stand and watch and wait for the next thing to hit them. When you look in their eyes you see that they have almost given up, not on life, on people. They don’t trust us, they are waiting for us to do to them what the one before may have done. Let’s look at Tatum for example. Poor guy was so tied in knots. I spent four months working with him and we couldn’t get him to move, unless someone walked in the pasture/paddock with a pitch fork or poop fork; then he would run. If on the lead rope he would just stand there, as if waiting for you to hit him. I don’t know his background. I just know what I see. Then one Saturday Michael Boyd comes out and I see him work with Tatum, with love and pure spirit and the horse responds. I am not going to lie; I still get an emotional chill when I think about it. (Mike, you are amazing and we are so thankful and blessed to have you come out here and work with us.) I could say the same of every one of our volunteers.
And then over time and with patience it slowly happens….
Because of this wonderful interaction between horse and man, over time you begin to see those beautiful animals run again and kick up their heels. It doesn’t happen overnight, but then you recognize the small changes and you see them begin to be a horse again and remember that beautiful freedom as they slowly return to become once again the kindred spirits that we all love. And that’s when it hit me with great force, and I begin to realize that for all that I thought I was giving them, they have been giving more to me. They have been teaching me to return to what it means to be a man, a father, a husband, a friend, and a Christian.
I suddenly realized how easily Melissa and I could have chosen the expected road to materialism that is so prevalent today. Work hard and save for the rest of our lives, and then at the end we would have looked back and wondered about all the dreams we once wanted to go after, but then never did. We are fortunate to have taken the leap into the unknown when the chance came along and stepped out on that ledge and leapt forward with faith.
Let me share my passion with you right now and take that leap when the opportunity comes along. It may not be easy; actually it may be terrifying at times. But once you are committed and you look out and distinguish the faint outline of the road before you, you realize that it is worth every step, the valleys and the mountains, the storms and the calm waters.
Now eight months into the dream
Currently we have fourteen horses and a mule on the property. We just bought another eight acres of land, ready to be cleared and set up for future rescues. There is also a list of 27 horses eagerly waiting for the moment that new slots become available.
The need is great, but we know that our community and our God are greater. So we commit ourselves to the task at hand, loving the work and struggle that comes with living out our dream.
On days when the kids come out we often find ourselves watching them interact with the horses, so full of questions and curiosity. Amazed that this animal, as large as it is, will do as they ask it to, eyes wide with wonder at the design of the hoof, laughing at the “frog” in the center of the hoof, while making “ribbitt” sounds, as one of the volunteers explains each part of the foot.
They wonder in wide eyed amazement as they wait in anticipation of the moment they get hoisted onto the saddle and being lead around the corral. The expression of joy as one of the horses nuzzles them, breathing hot air in their hair. The amazement as they watch another volunteer work with a horse that has not had much human interaction, their breath catches as the horse rears up on his hind legs, then releases as he starts to do as he was asked and lunge around the trainer. All this we watch and smile with wonder at the gift that these horses bring to us each and every day.
But the dream does not stop there. Melissa has plans to take the Certified Horsemanship Association Disabled Rider Certification Course and begin to work with individuals with special needs with the horses. Imagine the joy when a child who has lost his legs mounts up and rides around, feeling true freedom. Or an autistic child interacting with a gentle horse, touching, petting, understanding, and healing not just for the horse and the child, but for the parents and for us as well.
I cherish the dream of working with youth who have run into some trouble, self or life inflicted. Help them learn to control and work through their emotions. Horses are the perfect environment for this, as they sense us better than we could ever hope to.
If you are interested in what we do, please, take some time, give us a call and set up a visit. Come out and see firsthand what we do. We are a non-profit organization based on community support; all donations are welcome and are tax-deductible.
So if you are looking for something to get involved in, we are here and always looking for people who are interested in investing in life.