Success Stories

Success means different things to different people. At Shepherd Youth Ranch, our measure of success is a bit different than that of the worlds. Sure we have an intricate system of pre and post testing that tracks children’s progress in terms of positive behavioral changes, increase in self -esteem, positive parental involvement and reduction in school suspensions and recidivism rates. Those numbers are important. But there are many miracles not as easily tracked that are equally as important (stories of healing and spiritual growth to name a few). Check out any of our stories from the ranch and you’ll see what we mean!

Jesse & Jacob

Jesse-and-jacob-and-tape“Jesse” was referred to SYR due to three court complaints for physical assault. While she was in our program, she developed a close bond with a little grey Arabian named Jacob. Just like Jesse, Jacob had also suffered abuse and neglect.  Over time he became a steady rock for Jesse. The pair grew together, learning to trust again.

After Jesse successfully graduated from the 24-week Trail to Success program, she served alongside Jacob as a junior volunteer mentor for younger children over the next two years. When SYR relocated from Jesse’s hometown near Charlotte to the Raleigh area, she reluctantly had to say goodbye to her trusted companion. Not long after, Jesse tragically suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. She had massive memory loss coupled with an inability to speak.  Not only could Jesse not remember her time at the ranch, she lost all recollection of her precious rock, Jacob. It was only through God’s grace and intensive therapy that she began to slowly remember and speak again.


Eli & Courtney

Eli-and-Courtney-and-tape“Courtney’s” mother had been incarcerated for several years when she was referred to the ranch for fighting in school. Many of the children who are court appointed to attend Shepherd Youth Ranch for poor behaviors are suffering from a past filled with abuse, neglect, grief or loss. Courtney’s life was no different.

During her first session at the ranch Courtney chose a little buckskin, dun quarter horse named Eli from a herd of five horses to be her partner. Unfor-tunately, Eli and the other horses were taking advantage of the brisk, cool weather. They playfully sprinted to the opposite end of the 5 acre pasture just as Courtney began making her selection. Disappointed, she related the experience with the horses to many rejections that she had experienced in life.
After some time, while Courtney shared her painful wounds, Eli began to make his way across the pasture. As he separated himself further and further from the herd, it was clear that he was headed straight to her!

Eli reached Courtney and stopped. He positioned his body in such a way that she was able to drape her arms across his back. As she buried her head in his mane, she began to cry. “He came back” she said, “he picked me, finally someone picked me!”

For a young teenage girl who had experienced the devastation of rejection and abandonment most of her life, this was a significant moment. Just as Christ chooses his children daily, this little horse whose name itself means “elevate”, desired to spend time with this precious child above all things.

As the session came to a close, Courtney whispered a secret into Eli’s soft ear and made her way out of the pasture. Although Eli rarely “spoke” to humans, on this particular day when Courtney turned to wave good bye, the little dun ran toward her and let out a whinny never before heard! It was clear, he had indeed chosen her!



Kara-and-Nevada-and-tapeAll her life, Karen has loved horses. She is just as happy grooming one and scooping pooh as she is riding one!  When her daughter was young she grew to love them too and they quickly became a big part of their mother daughter outings. They always hoped that someday they would own some horses.

When Karen’s husband landed a job in Oklahoma, quarter horse country, owning horses finally seemed possible. Her daughter was now in college and would have more time to help Karen care for them and they could ride on the weekends. Sadly that never happened.  One weekend, when Karen’s daughter was traveling home for a visit, a man in a hurry, crossed the double line and Karen’s daughter went to live with her Lord and Creator.  She was Karen’s only child and immediately Karen and her husband’s lives were changed forever.