Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wow, What a year!

What a year 2016 has been!
As a nation we have witnessed massive amounts of drama ... extraordinary high highs along with heart wrenching lows and still, we keep plugging along. 
Here at Shadow Ranch we have had some of those same highs and lows, but keep plugging along doing what we were meant to do ... help others.
2016 has seen changes at Shadow Ranch which in the grand scheme of things may not be big to some, but to us were huge. All the while, if you step back, you can almost see God smiling, laughing, crying and coaxing us with every step we take.
As always, classes come first and foremost and kept their regular schedules throughout the year.
The changes I'm talking about were "behind the scenes".
Some of the highlights in no particular order:
Low: Jim, our beloved instructor, trashed his already hurt knee and ended up having to have a full replacement. That procedure may have thrown him straight into retirement. Only time and rehab will tell.
High: We meet Taylor Sandoval. She is a certified PATH instructor and the founder of a new center opening in Paris. Like a lot of young centers (ours included), there is very little to no money in the bank. She agrees to come be our instructor here, earn a few bucks and teach classes. At the same time, we agree to help her and her new center (Tailored Rides) as much as possible.  
Big High: 5 different churches within our community came together to help a college organization called Students Today, Leaders Forever. This group of 40+ young people came through Sulphur Springs on their way to Austin from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Shadow Ranch and some of our local churches provided a roof over their head, dinner, breakfast, a bunch of projects for them to "work for their keep" and lunch to send them on their way. It was AWESOME!!!
High: Brooke had her baby. Woohoo! A happy healthy little boy.
Kinda low: Means that Brooke is now a stay-at-home Mom instead of our Ranch Hand and Instructor-in-Training.
High: Enter Corey and Ranch Hands.
High: Our yearly Fundraiser goes off without a hitch!
High: We try another fundraiser. A 5K Obstacle Ranch run. It's a hit! We raised a little money and had a blast at the same time. (Runners who love us set your calendars for next Sept! Will be great training for the Spartan races, too!)
High: Ag in the Classroom again.  playing with about 900 4th graders. Whew!
Huge High: Our local Lowes comes in and spends 2 days building a shelter in our playground, a well house for a water spigot, puts new siding, doors and a workstation in our shop and builds a new deck on the back of the residence. Holy Cow!!! Thank you so much!
Low: Corey and Todd both quit within a month of each other for better paying jobs.
Lower still: Corey is killed in an Auto accident.
Lowest low of all: My Niece is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Glioblastoma: Multiform.
We keep plugging along. New faces and smiles. Hard challenges.
One cannot know Joy without having known pain.
The measure of courage is not the absence of fear, but rather what one does with that fear.
Through everything we keep stepping, changing lives and following our mission: To increase the quality of life of kids and adults with disabilities and/or disabling situations in their lives and to make a positive difference in the lives of our volunteers, staff and community. and to do it with some of the most loving, giving, gentle horses you will ever meet.
Shadow Ranch wishes everyone a loving, compassionate, healthy and joyous 2017.
Blessings to all, M

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pilot Club helps us out! Woohoo!!!!

Pilot Grant Awarded to Shadow Ranch

Pilot Club of Quitman recently received notification from Pilot International Founder’s Fund in Macon, Georgia, that the club has been approved to receive a matching grant on behalf of Shadow Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center to provide teaching aids and three (3) treeless saddles.

Treeless saddles, made totally of leather and without a wooden frame, facilitate riders who have disabling conditions to participate in therapeutic riding lessons. In those lessons, riders participate in activities and games from horseback that increase their coordination, benefiting their balance, gait, and agility.

Additionally, riders typically develop a therapeutic relationship with the horse, sometimes grooming and caring for the horse’s needs to the extent that they are able. Most participants and their families report that the client’s overall sense of well-being progresses and helps them to increase their self-confidence and interaction with others.

Shadow Ranch serves a nine county area in Northeast Texas, making therapeutic riding available to people without having to travel to a large metropolitan area. For further information, contact Marion Cox, Executive Director, 214 604-8005 or via email:

As a part of Pilot International, Pilot clubs throughout the United States and around the world provide quality by implementing service initiatives to develop youth leadership, promote awareness of brain safety and fitness and improve the lives of those affected through education, prevention programs, volunteer activities, financial support and research. They also provide care for families in times of need.

For further information about Pilot Club, contact Debby Keenan, 903 383-5065 or

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How do you say thank you for something so important?

Woohoo! Lookie here!!!

How do you say thank you for something so important to the growth and overall operation of an organization?

The last 2 months have been extraordinary. First, with the help of a some very special people (Rita Fechtal and Chicks for Charity specifically), we were able to purchase a newer tractor with a front-end loader and hay skewer.  Then Zeke, Kathy and Traci Zwernemann were able to secure the donation of our first horse trailer.

With the new(er) tractor even with all the rain, we have been able to do more work in 8 hours than we could have done in a week with shovels, wheelbarrows and sweat! Our peoples backs are VERY thankful!

The horse trailer is something we have needed since the day we opened. Now (once we get them use to it!)  we can take a horse to the vet instead of the vet always having to come to us. Plus we can take our own horses to events like "Ag in the Classroom".

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Tractor

You may have noticed that there is a new paypal donation button at the right side of our blog. It is to establish a tractor fund.

M. Legend Brown (Mike) has seen us struggle with our old beat-up tractor. Just about every time he sees us, he asks about it. He has seen it with a flat tire, he has seen it out in the pasture where it has quit on us.

Admittedly, our tractor is on it's last leg. It is ancient. Every time it goes down, Jim has been able to get it running again so far. However, there are MAJOR problems with it. One of the big tires keeps going flat on us. It blows oil like crazy, it runs the battery down in a heartbeat, and now diesel is somehow getting mixed in with oil if we don't turn off the fuel valve every time we kill it. It's so old that most parts are now obsolete. To say it's being held together by baling wire would not be too far from the truth.

Starting it is a process:  Check the tire and usually put air in it, reattach the battery cables, turn the fuel valve back on, climb up in the seat, say a prayer, turn the key and see what happens.  Oh! And be ready for Plan B,  if it won't start for whatever reason because the job still has to be done! (The song to "Green Acres" just popped into my head for some reason!)

So yesterday Mike suggested we start a "tractor" fund and see if we can get some people involved to help us get a newer tractor. He even set up the new button for us. He can tell his friends and spread the word, you can tell your friends and spread the word, we can tell our friends and spread the word. Hopefully we can little by little raise enough money to get a newer tractor.

It doesn't have to be new or have all the amenities like a/c. It does, however, have to be the right size (40 -60 HP). Too big and it won't fit through our gates and we wouldn't be able to use the implements (disk, blade, forks,big mower). Too little and we could fit through the gates, but we still wouldn't be able to use the implements. It does need to be designed to handle 30 acres and have a front-end loader. AND we would really, really like for it to be dependable. (I value Jim's sanity more than I could ever say.)

Unfortunately tractors, even used ones, are not cheap. A good 2010 model will probably cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

So here we go. Do you or do you know anyone who is passionate about horses, therapeutic riding or just need a tax deduction? Every little bit counts and collectively, I think we can get it done. We are coming up on the end of the mowing season, so the goal is to get this done by Spring 2015. Can you help us?



Monday, September 1, 2014

The Movie! Another God Thing!

Steps of Faith

So in late February, I was going into one of the local radio stations to do a PSA. We were trying to raise the last bit needed for the last half of the down-payment of the property. While there, Enola Gay introduced me to a nice man named Eric King who was a director for movies - Hollywood type stuff. Very cool, really nice man. We exchanged pleasantries, shared what we both do and went about our merry ways. 

A couple weeks later I get a phone call from Eric. He tells me that a writer/director friend of his had come up with a faith-based story with Hippotherapy as a subplot. Can he bring him out to meet with us? Sure!!
Next thing you know, Eric is introducing us to M Legend Brown (Mike) and his team. We show them around, introduce them to the horses and tell them some of what we do. We head back up to the porch and grab some sweet tea. Mike starts telling us about the vision he has for the movie, how our place would be perfect for the ranch part of it and asked if we would consider joining his team. I told him sure, but with a few conditions: 1)Would have to clear it with the Board of Directors to be certain, but didn't think they would have a problem with it. 2) Would have to schedule it around classes. 3) Since we would have to bring in our people to work extra, they would have to cover their pay.

Conditions get met and things started happening. Gail comes and spends the weekend with us and becomes a sponge to learn all about the ranch, what we do and specifically what my job is. Then Malik comes and spends some time with us, then Chrystee. Then on a cold wet Sunday in April and a whole host of folks pull up. It's like controlled chaos with everyone knowing exactly what they are doing ... except us. Pam is in the house like a Mother Hen trying to make sure everyone has whatever they need. Jim, Kyle and I are out with the horses. We add one more condition...that before any camera or piece of equipment is used around a horse, they must give me 5 minutes with them and the horse. It's a safety thing to make sure the horse doesn't get spooked and no one gets hurt. They are in total agreement. The picture above is one of those times.

We say a group prayer and the shooting starts. They really do say: "Quiet on the set!"I think they got 1 or 2 scenes shot and then it started raining. Oops! Had to call it a day. 

Early the next morning, that same army of folks show up. We bring in the horses and the chaos begins again. Let me tell you: these folks are really hard workers. They shoot scene after scene in no particular order...that we understand!

Ms. Jan is in the house trying to stay warm until her scene. She's to be in the background having a class. They say it's time and she comes on up. However, in the cold, we can tell that she is really stiff. She won't admit it, but she's hurting a bit. So I tell Candice (Mike's asst) that once Ms Jan is on board, they have 30 minutes ...period. They run through one scene in about 15 minutes. They are setting up to run it again, when I wave Candice over. We're standing right next to the arena where Ms. Jan is on Cowboy when I ask Ms Jan how she's doing. Ms Jan is being a real trooper and says "fine". Having worked with Ms Jan for over 3 years now and catching Jim's eye, I knew better and said loud enough for Candice to hear: "She's lying"! Ms Jan just smiled that sweet smile of hers, but didn't disagree. Jim shook his head agreeing with me. I started counting down time at that point. No matter what, Ms Jan was not going to get hurt up there from riding too long in cold weather. Candice completely understood. They ran the scene again and were done with Ms Jan in about 10 minutes. That was professionalism mixed with compassion!

They shoot until it gets dark and show up the next morning and do it all over again. Just before dark, there's a shout's a wrap! They start packing up all their goodies and they go over the whole place inside and out cleaning and making sure there is no trash anywhere and nothing out of place. Heck, the house was cleaner when they left than when they got there. They took all the trash and after asking if we wanted any, they took the leftovers from all the food they brought, and trust me these folks can eat! They even brought in a big package of toilet paper to replace what they used.

Even through all the chaos, the degree of professionalism, compassion and caring was breathtaking. 

Before they left, we asked Mike how long it would take to put everything together. We had heard that it could take over a year. Our mouths dropped open when he said he wanted the first premiere to be in Dallas this August...4 months down the road. Wow! 

True to his word, in mid-August the first Red Carpet premiere was in Dallas, followed by one in Ft. Worth, Terrell and then one in Sulphur Springs. 

We've seen Steps of Faith twice now and have taken something different away each time. In my humble opinion, it is an amazing movie.

Good job, Mike and crew! And thank you for getting the word out about therapeutic riding to the many people that have never heard of the industry, much less what we do. And thank you too for the help you have given and will give in the future to Shadow Ranch.

Love you!