In this frigid, Wisconsin weather, it’s difficult to imagine lessons in the paddock in the scorching sun. That scene will be played out at Jeremiah’s Crossing in six short months. Amazing!
I have long marveled at the beauty of the ranch through all of the seasons. We enjoy the artistic look of winter, all white and crisp. Even in the throws of an unbearable cold snap, the sun shines brightly on the new fallen snow. Beauty in the midst of challenge. God’s way of reminding us to look for Him in all situations.
The horses take the cold weather in stride. We are so blessed to have great “hay men” in our lives. Ralph and Bernie grow a healthy crop for our herd. Square bales are the norm, but in January, round bales allow the horses to eat when they need to; keeping their heat/body temperature regulated. Hay, in concert with the pine windbreak adjacent to the feed paddock, helps the horses stay warm in this weather. Remarkably, while they have a run-in shed available to them, they almost never find their way to the man-made shelter.
Sleek coats have given way to shaggy bodies and frost covered whiskers. Many days find the herd sporting a white blanket of frost and frozen eyelashes. They are gorgeous in their winter make-up! Their look is completed by the angel braids appear in long manes. Ahhh…winter!
The staff at Jeremiah’s Crossing uses this precious time to plan for the new year. It won’t be long and our Phantom Barn Dance invitations will be in the mail (watch for them in February). In March we will hold our annual banquet and celebrate our volunteers. June will bring the Charity Charge Mudder, volunteer training with Terry Blessing, and before you know it LESSONS!
We pray that you find time to snuggle with a friend (furry or otherwise), read a great horse book, and find something that helps you get refreshed. For me, looking out the window at the majestic animals that partner with our family in this ministry brings warmth on a cold day, and inspiration to continue down this path God has chosen for us.
Tribute to Tank
It has taken me almost three months, since we lost our beloved Tank, to find the words to share with you the beauty and dignity with which Tank served his students at Jeremiah’s Crossing. Three months to be ready to say good-bye in this public forum. I miss him, more than I ever imagined I would.
Tank came to us as part of a duo of new horses. We were able to purchase him due to a wonderful donation provided to us by the Czerniejewski family. They were aware that we needed a couple of seasoned horses to teach our young herd how to be comfortable in new situations. We met Tank, and his best friend Lace, fell in love with Lace, and on the way home realized they needed to stay together forever. We called his owner, Kelly Anderson, and told her we’d take them both. And so, Tank and Lace came home to Jeremiah’s Crossing.
Tank never wavered from his determination to care for his riders. I didn’t matter if the rider was a seasoned veteran, or brand new to the saddle. He was a gentle giant with a crooked blaze and a boyish look, that would win your heart if you gave him the slightest opportunity.
I’ll never forget the first time I rode Tank on our trails. Roger led out with Chief, our resident Mustang. I followed behind, on Tank. After all the stories Kelly had told us about “steady Tank,” I was anticipating a quiet, uneventful ride in the woods. You might imagine my surprise when I found myself facing the wrong way on the trail in just a blink of an eye! In the moment before, Chief had spooked at something on the trail and looked back at Tank. Tank, mistook the look as a threatening gesture from Chief, the herd boss, dug in his front feet, and with me on board, spun 180 degrees…with me on his back! Of course, Roger didn’t see ANY of this and calmly inquired as to why I was facing the wrong direction on the trail. (He never does see my rodeo rides.) That was the one and only time Tank ever had a misstep on the trail.
Everyone at Jeremiah’s Crossing learned from Tank. You didn’t have to ride him to be his student. Tank taught adaptability is not difficult if you pay attention. One of his students, Emmie, communicates with sign language. She knew the sign for “Tank” making a “T,” and she knew the sign for “walk,” hands out over the saddle horn, palms down, moving hands forward and back. Tank learned that when Emmie’s body moved side to side as her hands moved forward and back, his horse leader was going to ask him to walk. Soon, he was stepping out as Emmie asked, not waiting for the horse leader at all.
Tank also taught horse leaders and side walkers to pay more attention to a student challenged by seizures. He would be walking along, doing everything he was asked, and then he would stop. Just stop. His horse leaders would try every leading technique they had ever learned to get him to walk. He might take a step or two, but then, he would stop again. No amount of tugging would make him move and then, Dani would have a seizure. Right there in the saddle. Tank stood stock still, like a statue. Instructors, side walkers, and Dani’s parents would crowd around, deciding what was best for Dani in the moment. Tank never moved a muscle. He knew before anyone that she was going to have a seizure. Everyone who ever worked with Tank learned to try to figure out what he was telling them, rather than decide he was being stubborn.
This past summer, we could tell Tank wasn’t feeling well. His body was betraying him. At only 25 years young, he developed Cushings and began treatment. He was losing weight, and was a bit unsteady on his feet, so we pulled him from the program. Even though he wasn’t feeling well, he always seemed eager to join the lesson crew as they were being tacked up, and was sad when he didn’t get his saddle. In July, he seemed to be making progress, so we added him back to the line up for one lesson.
Emmie was so excited to see Tank at the mounting block, and Tank was delighted to see Emmie! The light was shining in his eyes as she climbed aboard, and then, the signal he had waited all summer for…Emmie signing “Tank, Walk!” With a wiggle from the saddle, they were off!
Tank and Emmie’s team had a fantastic lesson. Tank never missed a beat. To say we were thrilled would be an incredible understatement. Tank was on the mend! When we returned from our annual mission conference, he would be back in lessons, working once again, doing what he loved most. Caring for others.
Unfortunately, that scenario never played itself out. While we were waiting to speak to one of our supporting churches, near Buffalo, NY, we received a call that Tank was down in the paddock. Our brave caretakers managed to help him toward the stalls, called the veterinarian, and kept us posted all through the church service. By the time the service was over, Tank had passed away.
Tank’s tack is still hanging on the hooks that bear his name. I’m not quite ready to reassign his bridle or grooming kit. His halter will always be his. Someday, when our barn is in built, we’ll place his picture and halter in a place of honor. A reminder that we all have our specialty in life, and we all have something to teach others.
Tank, we will miss you. You will live forever in our hearts.
TEAM ROCKY UPDATE
Well, I ended up with three team members! Thanks to Kristin, Anne, and an anonymous grandfather for joining TEAM ROCKY! Stay tuned for more ways to help Jeremiah’s Crossing continue their ministry.
JOIN TEAM ROCKY!!
Our friend, “Rocky,” is hoping you will take on a new challenge. You see, his goal in life is to make sure that Jeremiah’s Crossing is around for a very long time, so his friends can continue to serve special riders in our community. Here’s what Rocky has to say…
“There are so many of you “Jeremiah’s Crossing Friends!” I’m wondering…what if each one of you went to my web page, clicked on the PayPal link and donated $10 each month to sponsor me? That would be the coolest!
Your $10 each month would not only make it possible to keep enough hay in the barn to keep me happy, it would also help with other needs. Shoot, if you all sent $10 a month, I’d have a nice new barn and arena to hang out in.
So, how about it? If you are willing to share $10 a month, you could be part of my team! We’ll call it ‘Team Rocky!’ (If you think of a better name, please share it with me.) I’ll even put your name on the team roster on MY webpage, if you’d like.
Now go to the link, pledge your $10 and share this with your friends. $10 a month…why I’d even consider giving up one pound of my favorite grain if it meant one more special rider could have lessons. Just think of it! How cool will you feel to be part of my team!?!
Soon, we’ll begin planning for the summer lesson session. Even though we’re in the midst of the snowiest winter to hit Central Wisconsin in many years, planning continues. Jeremiah’s Crossing is looking for help from many volunteers. Opportunities are available now. We are in need of a volunteer coordinator, office assistant, and event planners.
We are also accepting applications from volunteers interested in assisting during our summer and fall lesson sessions. The summer lesson schedule is Mon AM, Tues AM, Thurs AM and Wed afternoon/evening. All volunteers will be trained by our instructors using our nationally recognized training program. Terry Blessing will be joining us once again, to share his knowledge of horses and their unique language. Please e-mail or call for more information and/or an application (firstname.lastname@example.org or 715.884.2551).
Please consider volunteering in 2014. Jeremiah’s Crossing serves between 60 and 70 participants each summer. Your help means we can serve those in our community challenged by special needs in a very unique way. You will be blessed as you bless others.
The Little Buffalo That Stayed
For the past couple of days our family, and the horses and dogs, have been keeping an eye out for a little yearling buffalo. She has decided to stay close to the fence across the street from Jeremiah’s Crossing, even though she has over 200 acres to roam.
The horses discovered her first, standing at attention, ears perked forward, as they kept careful watch. They never know if the little one will come through the fence, you know. So far, they have nothing to worry about.
The dogs and I seem to have noticed her at about the same time. They usually think that barking will solve every challenge, so they greeted her, encouraged her, and then thought they’d send her on her way. Their greetings seem to have fallen on deaf ears as she is still sticking around two days later.
Of course, I grabbed the camera. A yearling buffalo at the fence is too tempting a photo op to ignore. I brought the telephoto lens and started taking pictures as soon as I could get her image to fill the frame. Then, as I took photos, I walked toward her. She didn’t move, although she did bat her beautiful eyelashes at me.
She sure was a great subject for my photos. At one point she did walk away, over to the next post where she made sure the fence post was between us. She played a cute game of “you can’t see me now!” She looked a bit surprised when I appeared on the other side of the post!
The little one was not afraid. I think she may have held her breath now and again. But she didn’t run, or shake, or act like I bothered her. She doubled back on her tracks, made a little loop, and headed down the fence line a little further. The fence seemed to be just a temporary barrier in her mind. I firmly believe she would have walked to Babcock if the fence had not been in her way.
The next morning I drove down the road and saw the little one sleeping under a grove of small oak trees. The herd had joined her; staying about 100 yards away. On my return trip, there she was, circling her little grove of trees. The herd, no where to be seen.
So, Roger called Sandhill Wildlife Area to let them know about our little friend. Wayne assured him that they knew about her, and that she has been a bit stand-offish since she was really little. Even so, someone came out on a snowmobile to check on her. And, yes, she is a “she.”
This morning, the little one is still here at the fence. If she stays much longer we may have to give her a name. We’ve had buffalo (American Bison if you want to be accurate) visit us at the fence before. We have some pretty incredible stories. This one, however, has visited for the longest period of time. She is a reminder of spring, that God’s creatures are beginning to search for the newness that this season will bring, of the fact that friendship can come in many forms. Sometimes you just have to look across the street.
Nap Time @ Jeremiah’s Crossing
We came home from town today to find almost half of the herd napping in the warmth of the sun. They were really out, too, because they didn’t even stir when we parked the truck and called to them.
Nap time at the Jeremiah's Crossing paddock!
So Many Special Kids
You may want a tissue handy when you view this video. I guarantee that we all hope that our special kids are treated this well in life.
THANK YOU, Autism Impact Corporation, for coming on board as supporters of Jeremiah’s Crossing! The Autism Impact Corporation sponsors the Jigsaw Run in Wisconsin Rapids.
We look forward to a long partnership, caring for folks who have challenges in their lives due to autism.
Check out this great story!
Mrs. Ann Romney brought therapeutic horseback riding to the national stage this week as she was a guest on Good Morning America. We are grateful to all who are able and willing to move our cause forward. Jeremiah’s Crossing is one of hundreds of centers that provide horseback riding opportunities to those with special needs and we are thrilled to have this type of exposure.
Please continue to walk with us as we work toward our indoor arena and barn complex. Our community members are working together to make this dream, and necessity, a reality!
(We apologize for the advertising that appears prior to the story.)