Ashley, one of the extraordinary young people in our JUMP program, is very under spoken; unless of course you would like to talk about her cat. She is somewhat shy and not always comfortable about trying new things. When she first started coming out to the farm she mostly kept herself in the background. She was convinced that a bucket of grain was too heavy for her to carry. And the mud? Well, that was just too big of an obstacle to overcome.
I knew things were changing for Ashley when, one very wet afternoon, I dished out six bowls of grain and asked the girls to take them out to the pastures. Claire instantly grabbed three dishes and right behind her was Ashley, eager to grab another stack. Keep in mind, this was in the middle of winter and at that time some parts of the pasture were nothing but boot-sucking mud pools. “I hope she doesn’t mind getting a little dirty,” I thought.
Suddenly, I heard laughter coming from the back of the barn. Around the corner came the girls. Ashley was covered from head to toe in mud… and laughing! She looked at me with a quirky little smile, said, “I don’t want to know what else could be in the mud!” and then expounded on the glory of how she fell in and couldn’t get up.
Ashley has come a long way since that day. She now hauls saddles, tacks horses, and cleans stalls (though, admittedly, not her favorite job). She has a seat to die for; it is as though someone glued her to the saddle and she’s only coming off when she is good and ready. She has sat bucks, horses dropping their shoulders around corners, and much more. Her response is to just to flash us a quirky smile. I think she knows she has got it.
The other wonderful thing I have learned about Ashley is her love for the underdog. Her favorite horses have always been the ones not on anyone else’s Top Ten list. Until she met Riddler, that is.
Riddler is a retired BLM wrangler horse. His striking looks made him quite popular with the kids at the ranch, but he did have some challenges to face. I am not sure what he was like in his former role, but at Wild Ones he has been just a little bit like Ashley— not quite sure about his new job or that he even wanted to do it.
He was especially insecure when my full contact girls rode him. Their argument would go something like this:
Girls: “Move off my hip.” Riddler: “No, no, just get your legs off me and use the reins!” Girls: “But, I don’t like riding with just the reins. I like to move you around with just my hips.” Riddler: “Well, I prefer you just neck rein me and let me do all the work.” Girls: “No, you can’t do all the work; you have to listen to me.” And so on…
With time and encouragement, however, Riddler (like Ashley), has settled in at Wild Ones and is for the most part pretty compliant. Every now and then (also like our Ashley) he gets a little of an “I won’t do it and you can’t make me” attitude, but even in this there is a strength that says “I will not be pushed and I will not do anything that makes me uneasy.” They are both finding a balance with each other. I think that God is using their partnership and it has been great for both of them. Ashley’s calm attitude is just what the veterinarian ordered. And Riddle has helped Ashley’s “I think I can” turn into an “I know I can.”
The Lord has used our horses to work His changes in this Ashley. She has gained confidence and ability. She shows a bright, smiling face to the younger kids and instead of hiding behind the rest of her group, she often leads the pack to the barn. She is finding a sense of purpose in her role at Wild Ones Youth Ranch and has been a special blessing to me.
I look at this young lady and in her weakness I see Jesus. I would like to think that I would not be moved if pushed and that I could stand my ground and not buckle. I know the Lord made Ashley for His work and her strong resolve, though not yet refined, will someday be used for His glory. I am grateful to be able to watch the Lord grow her and mold her.