Horsemanship at the A/U Ranches: Learning Trust and Confidence

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When you signed up your children for Youth Camp or told your camp-age friends about the great adventure they can have in the Rocky Mountains this summer, chances are you thought about the horsemanship program. It’s just one of many majors campers can choose at the A/U Ranches. But it’s also one that helps young people like Emma and Cassidy to discover their God-given strength and confidence.

Emma, as horsemanship program head last summer

Grace and healing
Emma has a long camper history with horses at the A/U Ranches, and also served as program head last summer. Now studying in the Equine Sciences Program at Colorado State University, she learned to take care of her horses’ physical needs as well as to love and pray for them. Looking back to the end of her first summer as a camper, she found she had changed.

“I noticed a greater respect for responsibility, for taking care of others, and I realized that I had developed a higher work ethic,” Emma says. “Through the example of our program director and our counselors, I was discovering the kind of person I wanted to be. I found myself changing from a kid who did things half-heartedly, to a kid who put as much work as she could into everything she did. I liked seeing the hardworking young lady I was becoming. And the fun I was having while doing it was an added benefit.”

Two summers ago, Emma experienced what she calls “one of the most significant healings I’ve had” while on a horse. Here’s her account of it:

I was competing in one of the outside polocrosse tournaments that camp participates in, and was riding a new, young horse. At some point during one of my chukkas (matches), I found myself pulling too hard on my reins, causing my horse to rear and begin falling backwards on me.

What was actually 30 seconds felt like minutes. I began this backwards fall with a fear of what might happen: being crushed under the weight of this large horse or trampled by the other players coming full speed behind me. But this fear was immediately combated by an idea that guided me through these next steps. The idea came from an address that Mary Baker Eddy wrote to her association during the pioneer days of Christian Science. She said that “if you trust, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.”

So I began trusting, trusting in God, trusting in this horse, trusting my faith. And the next thing I knew, I was standing on the ground, walking backwards. When the cloud of dust disappeared, both my horse and I were standing there with nothing to show but the joy we had for the game we were playing. In moments like these, I appreciate everything Christian Science offers, and that I am able to trust in something so powerful, so easily.

Cassidy, as a confident 6th grader
Cassidy, as a confident 6th grader

Confidence and persistence
Cassidy, now a high school sophomore, enrolled in the horsemanship program before starting middle school. “She was small compared to other sixth graders, and I wanted her to feel confident that she could handle anything,” says her mother, Kris.

This approach proved to be a blessing. “My confidence thrived after spending two weeks on an animal that weighed a half ton,” Cassidy says. “I was able to trust the horse and ride it without fear of being kicked or dropped. Now, flying down the arena at top speed on a 1,200-lb horse, running patterns, is one of my favorite activities.”

She also learned persistence when handling willfulness in a horse. “I don’t give up on problems and situations until I’ve tried all I can,” Cassidy says.

Kris adds that Cassidy’s experience in the horsemanship program helped her when she was bullied in sixth grade. “Instead of withering away and being defeated by that, she started an anti-bullying program in her middle school, and by the time she graduated, she was student of the year,” she recalls. “I think a lot of that came from seeing that there wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle humanly or spiritually.”

Teamwork and love
Riders in the horsemanship program discover these strengthening qualities as they’re taught how to develop a love-based working relationship with their horses, which builds mutual trust and respect, says Head Wrangler Lachlan Clarke. This approach cultivates teamwork, both with the horse and with others. “It’s a great microcosm for working with and developing children and young adults,” Lach says.

Of course, it all starts with God, he adds. “I have had to be constantly aware of a rider’s individual changing needs for differing forms and amounts of instruction and adapt immediately to those needs, which would not be possible without a strong daily, metaphysical base.”

There’s still space at camp for your children and young friends! Learn more about the new opportunities during first session and register here.

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