Holding On

“Holding On” has many meanings at the Ranch. It can be said as we make it up our steep driveway in the ice and snow. We say it when the boys load up the Polaris with hay to take out to our pasture. They have to make an extra lap with the Polaris for fun. We also say “hold on” when we are all holding on to our burro, Rufus, so he can get his hooves clipped by our farrier.

Recently, “holding on” took on a whole new meaning. We had been working with six ladies that were cancer survivors. They were coming out to the ranch for some physical and emotional rehabilitation. These ladies were overcoming multiple health issues. Many had not exercised or been outdoors for quite some time. Some of this was self-restricted; not for any reason than they were not self-assured enough to regain normal activities. Their medical prognosis was good, but the stress and trauma of such a deadly disease had taken its toll.

We were asked to give them a motivating outing that would help them build their self-esteem and gain some self-reliance again. We worked up an eight week program. Our starting point was to allow the ladies to get comfortable with the ranch and the horses. The first task was fairly simple: take a halter and choose a horse to bring to the center of the arena. It is always interesting to see what horse people choose. The truth is that the horses really choose who they want to work with. It is a very interesting process, but the horse is really in control. The ladies all came back with their horse.

After several other activities, we allowed them to work more with the horses on their own. The session went very well; the ladies seemed more relaxed and self-confident about being and working at the ranch. They all had questions about the work we do and how we got started. All of them left with smiles on their faces and an eagerness to return.

They returned for four more sessions. We were noticing great changes and improvements, not only physically but emotionally. There was much more laughter and eagerness to try different activities. They were really stepping up and were even challenging themselves. I noticed one gal who would never let go of the horse’s lead rope. After a couple more sessions, I casually asked her about it. It was just an observation, but no one else held on to the lead line the entire time they were there. She dismissed it as “no big deal” and we switched the conversation. We all finished the session, and as usual, everyone had done a terrific job and was eager to return.

We had only two more sessions to go. We were feeling very successful with the group—they were all reaching out and working on their personal accomplishments. That was our goal. A few hours after they left, I received a phone call. It was Eve; the lady I asked about ‘holding on’ to the lead rope. Her voice quivered as she spoke to me. She asked if she could return to the ranch to talk with me.

Upon her return, we walked out into the pasture. I happen to have a halter and a lead rope hanging on the gate. She picked up the lead rope and began to sob. She looked at me and said that the lead rope was her lifeline. She had been so emotionally affected by her diagnosis and that she could have died changed her personality, her confidence, her entire life. Coming to the ranch and working with the horses jarred something in her to not “give up.” The lead rope was her representation of “holding on” to life.

She was so grateful that I asked her about the lead line, she may have never made the connection. It was a life changing moment for her to realize how deeply affected she was. But with that door open, she could now move forward and make positive changes.  After that conversation I will never look at a halter and lead rope in quite the same way. Nor will I feel the same way about the term “holding on.”

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.