"It was June 19th 2007, a day I was going to allow my children the chance to do something that I had never done in my life¼ ride a horse. To tell the truth, I was afraid of them. I grew up in a city just like my kids are doing at this time in their lives. One advantage I had though was every summer my grandmother would send me to the country. I left the city with its noise and crowds to be surrounded by dirt and farm animals. I wanted that opportunity for my children, but how? By chance, one afternoon in
May, I went into the foster parent and adoption assistance program office in hopes of finding something, anything to help me find an outdoor activity for my kids to look forward to this summer. Last year I had worked at great America Park and I earned enough hours and free tickets for them to at least be able to play as much as they like.
You see I'm a country girl at heart and I just don't understand this "play date" thing. What happen to just going outside to play? I know kids don't do that now-a-days. Ok,
so what can a city mom do when her home is surrounded by side walks, some grass and trees (if you are fortunate), but mostly its sidewalk. The administrator gave me a flyer on Victory Ranch. If I could express the joy in my heart that day! I would compare it to winning the lottery. A chance for both my kids to be in the country 2 days a week 5 hours a day¼ it was wonderful. I knew they would be excited when I told them and they were. I offered to volunteer when I saw on the sheet, there were 8 or more kids in ages ranging from 5-14. City kids use to a different kind of dirt the kind that floats in the air in the form of car exhaust and other pollutants, but here at Victory
Ranch they were about to experience a new kind of dirt. Mother Nature's dirt. The kind that just two generations before would find little boys splashing in it and little girls making mud pies out of it. But this dirt was different, it had chickens pecking around freely and an abundance of horse manure. These children were about to be introduced to a different way of life by their new teacher, Doug. It would be through his patient teaching that the comments changed from 'its stinks out here" to "can I clean the horse stalls please." To watch the kids grow over the following six weeks under Doug's guidance was something I wish every horse owner could see. I photographed as much as I could from the teaching table to the riding ring, but even a Kodak couldn't capture some of those moments. Moments like the one when a shy timid 5 year old found courage to reach out and touch something 10 times her size. The 8 year old who could almost never focus but cleaned the stall for the horse Dun-it with patience and pride. I
could go on and on with the little things the children found themselves being forced to learn if they wanted to ride, and they all wanted that reward. They had to say please and thank you to each other and the horses. They learned through the horses about trust and responsibility. I witnessed each child learn and grow through out the program. Take a moment the next time you see a child playing on the side walk¼ imagine them on a saddle instead. A future leader confident and trustworthy because some where someone with a horse and a few hours decided to offer that child a way to go from playing on the side walk to riding in a saddle. It can be done, it has been done."