I have been pretty open about the fact that I believed starting a horse rescue was my divine calling. When I started talking about it, some of my friends suggested the “calling” was more likely about the people who would be involved. I shot them down – nope, it’s all about rescuing horses, not people. It wasn’t until I was lying around recovering after my accident, that I wondered and prayed about what good could come from what happened to me. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t handle sitting around very well, so I had my wheels turning working on new ideas so I could at least feel like I wasn’t dead in the water. One night I was thinking and overthinking (as I often do), and I had this overwhelming feeling that we should use our horses to help people with PTSD. It made perfect sense! After all, I was suffering from PTSD, and my therapy was spending time with Teddy. Now I had a reason for my accident and a way to move forward! I met with multiple people who had connections or insight into getting the military involved so we could start helping soldiers with PTSD. I learned very quickly that it would be pretty difficult on many levels to make that plan happen, and honestly if I poured all of my time and energy into that, it would take away from my main mission which was to rescue horses. So, I threw up my hands, and said “Sorry, God, I tried…maybe one day”, and moved on.
Nine months later, enter Susan and Mark Rivest. They are recently retired and built their dream home five minutes from Nalani. Susan grew up with horses and always wanted to be involved with them once life allowed. She reached out to me asking if she could meet with me and learn about Nalani, with the hope of volunteering. We planned a meeting, and I introduced them to Teddy, Riser, and Lincoln. Susan felt an instant connection to Lincoln, and even before the meeting was over, she asked if she could sponsor him and spend more time with him. She mentioned that there was a man in her past who had abused her and she felt like being with Lincoln would be good therapy for her. I wan’t sure I heard her correctly. I had just met this woman, and who shows that kind of vulnerability so soon?! I happily signed them up, and started meeting with them regularly. They are the kindest, most generous people and are so appreciative of the time they get to spend with Lincoln. As we got to know each other, Susan shared more about her past, her stories of growing up with horses and how they were her escape and her therapy. She still carried around the weight of what had happened, but she would always say “horse therapy is the best therapy”.
Susan and Mark recently took a trip to NY to visit her family. When they returned we had a long talk as we hand grazed the horses. She told me she shared pictures of Lincoln with her dad, and he looked at them eagerly as they reminded him of one of his favorite ponies. There was something different about this trip. Her sister noticed a change in her. Her husband, Mark, had already seen it unfolding, but for her family, it was a stark change. While she was home, there was a reminder of her past that would have normally sent her into a tailspin, but it had no effect on her. She realized the weight she had carried her entire life had been lifted. She credited this to spending time with Lincoln. Watching him work through his abusive past and learning to trust somehow changed her. I stood there with my mouth open. I asked Susan if she would consider herself to have PTSD, and she said absolutely.