Part of our mission at the ranch is to help abused and mistreated horses by rescuing and adopting them into our program. Like our participants, our precious equine counselors come from all walks of life.
WHY HORSES? Because we believe each of God’s creations serves a unique purpose: to glorify the Creator. For horses, this means being able to provide therapy to those impacted by trauma. Through an experiential form of counseling, Shepherd Youth Ranch is able to help youth and their families heal mentally, emotionally, behaviorally and spiritually.
The story of Ferris Mueller, the Triumphant
Ferris’ life was looking very bleak about 9 months ago. Unwanted and neglected he ended up at a livestock auction in Tennessee. Barely able to move because his neglected hooves had grown too long, he stood amidst other livestock being sold for meat. Meredith Kneavel, a horse rescue advocate was at the auction to intercept animals in need. She saw Ferris and knew she had to save him. She won the bid for Ferris and found a local rescue that would take him and start his rehabilitation. This was just the beginning of a long journey to healing. Ferris found his way to a new rescue thanks to Meredith. However, this newly formed rescue didn’t have the resources available to care for his severely damaged hooves. They wisely contacted our friend Melanie at Second Chance Stables and asked if she would take him. Second Chance was full at the time and did not have the extra funds to take in more animals. Melanie however, couldn’t turn Ferris away and knew if she took him that her awesome farrier, Victoria Draleau could rehabilitate his hooves. Ferris arrived at Second Chance early 2019 and the rehabilitation began. When they first attempted to pick up his legs, Ferris would become aggressive (rearing, kicking, biting) and would cry out in pain . It was so impossible that they had to sedate him the first few trims. The better his hooves got the more relaxed he became during trims and he no longer no sedation. It took a little over five months of consistent trims before Ferris was able to playfully trot and canter around the pasture
ELI: registered Appaloosa and Quarter Horse, gelding
Eli was part of a 2 in 1 package. He was generously donated along with his mother Hope. The name Eli means “elevated.” As the son of Hope we have witnessed this horse raise the level of hope in youth to extremes! Never before have we witnessed a horse serve in such amazing ways as this horse has in our equine therapy sessions. He is a blessing full of spunk, spirit, life and elevated hope!
FAME: registered Arabian, gelding
Fame has earned his title as the famous founding horse of the ranch. He is Ashley’s first horse and has been offering unbridled love to youth for the past eight years. Fame’s seniority and experience give him great credibility among the youth who visit the ranch for the first time. He has attended over 500 hours of natural horsemanship and Parelli clinics, including visiting the Parelli center in Florida. Fame and Ashley’s harmonious partnership has earned them official Parelli Level 4 in 2015. Today, Fame’s generous nature can be seen as he willingly carries on his back, each new participant that visits the ranch.
HOPE: registered Appaloosa, mare
Hope was generously donated to the ranch along with her son, Eli. She earned the title as our first mare. She has lived up to her name as she at only 14 hands tall provided giant hope for all who meet her. Her greatest quality is quiet strength. Once she jumped a five foot fence from a standstill, demonstrating that little does not mean weak.
JACK: registered Quarter Horse, gelding
Jack was a bit of an escape artist before he came to the ranch. One too many runaways landed him in a stall permanently. Stable life “stalled” his natural ability to graze and without adequate grain and hay resources, Jack quickly physically and mentally digressed. Jack was purchased and brought to the ranch where he put on 200 pounds. His pasture buddies and some clear boundaries have erased former patterns of escape. He has found his place and mission in life serving people in need and encouraging them to stick around and see the Lord’s blessings for them!
JOY: thoroughbred cross, mare
Joy came to Shepherd Youth Ranch in 2014 as a foster horse from the USERL. She had been rescued a couple years earlier from extreme neglect and was on the brink of death. She had lost so much weight you could see all of her ribs and hip bones. At one point, she was living in a pasture where she had to walk over her dead pasture mates who could not survive the horrific conditions of neglect. Joy is now happy and healthy, enjoying her new life! She loves children and has become a great horse for therapy and riding. Joy is a favorite among the children we serve and is truly a symbol of happiness for many. The Lord continuously uses this beautiful horse, who suffered so much, to bring light and hope into the lives of suffering children and families.
NEVADA: registered BLM mustang, gelding
Nevada is a BLM mustang that lived in the state of Nevada wilderness until she was seven. Each year, the Bureau of Land Management rounds up several wild mustangs to decrease the population for neighboring cattle farmers and sells them at auctions across the country. Unfortunately for these horses, the way they are acquired can be life threatening as they are forced into herds at maximum speeds, then into pens and later trailers where they often trample each other and die from exhaustion and injuries.
Nevada, however, is a survivor and living proof that courage and perseverance can only lead to a hope for a future.
TEX: Pony Cross, gelding
Tex came to the ranch as a foster horse from the United States Equine Rescue League. He was rescued from extreme neglect. Suffering in a muddy paddock without food or clean water, he had lost 200 pounds. Upon arriving at Shepherd Youth Ranch, he was skeptical of new people and things. It took almost a month to earn his trust and catch him for the first time. Tex is still in training but he is proving to be an extremely smart and curious partner. Although he is still timid around strangers, he has begun to approach people and allow them the opportunity to get to know him.
SAKE: registered Holsteiner gelding
Sake is Ashley’s personal horse with a miraculous story. Ashley first saw Sake during the Parelli Tour in 2004 when the horse she was riding at the time was selected to be the demonstration horse for Pat Parell. The second day of the event, Sake and his then owner were given a private lesson by Linda Parelli. When Ashley saw this gentle giant standing 18 hands, she declared that one day she would have a horse like that. At the time Ashley did not own a horse and Shepherd Youth Ranch was but a mere dream.
A few years later after Shepherd Youth Ranch was birthed, Ashley often would receive emails about horses needing new homes. One particular email attracted her attention and she discovered the horse in need was Sake! Sadly, the only partner Sake had ever known had tragically passed away. Ashley quickly inquired about the horse and set out to see if they would make a good match.
Ashley met with the owner’s husband and spent the day with Sake one spring afternoon. Initially, Sake approached Ashley with some hesitation and actually ran away from her twice; a displaced behavior he had perfected to avoid life’s requirements. During this first encounter, it was evident that Sake was depressed and deeply affected by the loss of the only partner he had ever known. It was going to take some time for him to learn to trust another partner. Astonishingly, by the end of that first day, Sake was trusting his new friend and following her at liberty around his 30 acre pasture! Later that month, Ashley brought Sake to his new home, where he quickly settled in with the herd and became a favorite among the children.
What was once a lonely horse who needed a girl and a girl who dreamed of this very horse was now a match……only contrived in heaven itself!
OUR MINIS – COCOA, LITTLE PUFF and MACARONI
Miniature horses are such a blessing for a program like ours; they represent the horse species on a smaller, sometimes less threatening scale. Over the past three years we searched for just the right miniature horses to no avail. One winter day in 2014 after our program was featured on ABC with Caitlin Knute, we received a call from a special gentleman who breed minis and wanted to donate as many as we wanted to our program! What a glorious orchestrated plan from the Creator, Himself! Our founder, Ashley and our barn manger, Ashleigh toured the mini ranch, hugging and kissing over 23 miniature horses. They decided to choose three minis each and then compare notes only after they had made a final decision. The result; they both picked the SAME three horses! Macaroni, Little Puff and Cocoa are truly little angels in horsehair sent from heaven bringing hope and joy to everyone they meet.