Making A Difference Comes With a Price

May 2012

Dear Stillwater Friends,

This past week we have been blessed with Matt, a senior in high school who is spending the next couple weeks volunteering as part of his senior project at our program doing whatever we need to have done. He has a huge heart to help other people and a wealth of knowledge and experience with horses. This Saturday he rode our new horse Teddy for a tune up. Teddy loves it here and is feeling more energetic and full of life. Teddy has a powerful canter and has been having fun lately showing it off to the students. So a dancing lesson it was for Teddy with Matt.

Matt is a very gifted rider and has been riding since he was 7. He has trained with some top dressage trainers including time in Florida with George Williams. He has won multiple awards with his horse Moonlight and has competed at the exclusive young riders competition in Kentucky placing 4th in 4th level out of 40 of the top young riders from the US and Mexico.

Watching Matt work with Teddy reminded me why I had loved dressage and had taken lessons in it for so many years. Matt has a solid core and a sitting trot and canter seat that I always hoped to achieve. He made every movement seem effortless and he became part of the horse.

My dream was always to ride upper level dressage and to do well in competition. In 2003 for my birthday, Mike bought me a young Dutch Warmblood prospect who was 9 months old at the time. His name was Wow and he had blue eyes, a white face, white socks and was chestnut. He had a “look at me attitude” that screamed confidence. His dad was winning multiple championships in his division in dressage on the west coast and I felt that young Wow was my ticket to winning in the future. I felt that by winning at higher levels of dressage then others would take me serious in my knowledge and that then I could have a higher impact on the lives of others.

In 2005 we moved to Ohio and we left behind my students, reputation and indoor arena. We brought 3 horses with us one of them was Wow.  We built our barn and outdoor arena at our new place. I started giving lessons as a business and taking dressage lessons from a local barn.  Wow was 2 at the time we moved here so I was taking lessons with a different horse. After being here almost a year Wow’s feet began to fall apart, all four to be exact. That was devastating since it was time for him to begin his under saddle work.  At the same time my back became injured which forced me to take time off from teaching and riding. During this time, Mike and I decided we would like to become a non-profit so that regardless of income, children in our community could have the opportunity to work with horses. As I started to feel better, Mike and I began taking the steps to turn our business into a non-profit. During this process Mike was laid off in 2009 from ABX for 1 and ½ yrs .

Wow had a lot of energy and if it was not being channeled into work, he took it out on the volunteers who were helping and our vet and shoer. His feet were now 100% fine and it was time for him to be in training for what he was bred to do…dressage. He needed to be worked 6 days a week which I did not have the time or the finances for us to get into training with a trainer. In addition, my back was still recovering so physically I was not ready either.

So, in 2010, I made the tough decision of selling Wow. It was a difficult choice for at this point he was 7 years old. I had him for a long time and had been hanging on to this dream for over 10 years. It is scary to walk away from a dream when it seems time too and to me, it seemed like I had failed not reaching what I had set out to do. It turned out that the right owner came along and purchased Wow and he is currently using him for what he was bred to do. That helped the pain some, but I was left with a huge hole to fill.

Let me fast forward now to May 2012 . It is 2 years later and I want to share what the hole has been filled with. The hole has been filled with miracles that I have been a part of with students in our program such as:

  • A teen with ADD was able to slow her brain down and think through the steps to mount and dismount the saddle on our saddle stand. She was able to continue this for 20 minutes and applied it while she was leading Teddy and for when she mounted and dismounted the saddle while it was on him.
  • A teen that is typically very shy and has a very hard time expressing herself and her feelings started taking a risk and began making the steps to talking and sharing with me.
  • A teen that has been choosing dark choices and was about to be swallowed by it chose life. She has begun to realize that absolutes do exist and has started naming what those are in her life.
  • We have a young girl who has suffered epileptic seizures and has scarring in her brain who has begun to speak with more words and ask questions during her rides on Cheeto. This week was her third visit and there has been an increase and strength in her fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
  • A teen who lost her mom 2 years ago to cancer also has the same disease has lost sight in one eye due to an inoperable tumor pressing on the optic. The disease also affects her balance and coordination.  As I watched her jogging alongside Cheeto in the arena this week I saw a smile of a renewed confidence and an increase of strength in her stamina, coordination and strength.
  • Still another teen this week was faced with a very big choice whether she was going to follow peer pressure or follow her own convictions.  She found strength in our horse Teddy and the support team she has surrounded herself with her at the stables to make the best choice and stick with it.

Walking away from a dream and the way I thought something needed to look was a choice I had to make. I had to choose that I would follow God’s purpose for me and to let it look how He wanted to rather than how I thought it should look. I had to let go of my plans and allow God to fill the hole that was left when I sold Wow and it had felt like my dream had ended. With His power now I watch as He uses horses to change lives in a way that I never dreamed possible. I realize the change in others is not about me and my accomplishments at all but being allowed to be used as a vessel making available the environment we have with the horses and giving a specific message to each that God wants to hear. If I had hung on to Wow, Stillwater Stables would not be where it is now and I would not have continued to grow into the person I am today. Looking back now, it was worth the sacrifice.

Here I am, changing lives one stride at a time, making a difference in a way I never thought possible. I have grown as a person and realize that it’s not about the ribbons or awards but pursuing after the purpose I was created for that brings change.  Letting go is the hardest thing to do but God promises to fill it with so much more. He promises to fill it with life and an opportunity to experience more of heaven on earth.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support for our program and for making changing lives through horses a reality in Clinton County!

For His Kids

Connie Patrick

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