Archive for the ‘A Message from the Ranch’ Category

The Chelsea Principle…moving beyond your comfort zone!

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Yesterday I facilitated an Equine Assisted Learning session with a 30 year old client who we’ll call Sharon. Sharon is a Christian searching for a deeper spiritual relationship with God.
Each time we bring a horse and a person together for healing or learning, the Holy Spirit always shows up in a unique and encouraging way. Not only does the client learn something about themselves but I am constantly renewed in my own faith in God’s ways as His Word comes to life!
Sharon has found her life seems to be stuck and she has come for some sessions to help her become more aware of why she is stuck in her same patterns. So we chose Chelsea as her teacher that evening.
We turned Chelsea loose in the arena and I set two jump poles on the ground 5’ apart to represent Sharon’s “inner and outer blocks”. I also set an orange cone further beyond the blocks to represent her goals. These goals are the desires God has placed in her heart to fulfill her purpose in her life and bring her joy on her journey!

The blocks and the goal

The blocks and the goal

My instructions to Sharon were to have Chelsea move through (over) her “blocks” to attain the goal she is longing for. She was not to use any rope, halter or any device to help her move the horse but to use her own energy and intention. Sharon has already identified her blocks but wanted a session on moving beyond them.
The comfort zone

The comfort zone

As Sharon started to engage with Chelsea, the horse moved with her for a few steps then circled around and returned to the window that looked out of the arena towards her stall and her friends. Sharon asked her several times to go with her towards the “blocks” and the goal. Each time Chelsea would go several steps, once even going to the pole on the ground (the block) then would circle around and go back to the window. After about 15 minutes of this, Sharon exclaimed “That’s what my life looks like, circling around and around with nothing changing. I keep going back to my comfort zone. That’s where I want to stay!”
“What would break her out of that comfort zone to head towards her goals?” I asked Sharon.
Sharon’s answer was that she noticed Chelsea wasn’t even focused on the goal or heading towards it. She wasn’t any more interested in the goal than Sharon herself was. Even though Sharon verbalized that she wanted to achieve her goals, she realized she was internally acting just like Chelsea!
“What if we got something that she wanted badly enough to go after with some passion?” Sharon asked. So we filled a bucket with hay to encourage Chelsea to follow her “dreams”.
With the bucket of hay in hand, Sharon encouraged Chelsea to follow her to the goal. Chelsea sniffed the hay as she took several steps with Sharon towards the poles on the ground then once again circled back to the window. Sharon tried again. With head in the bucket, Chelsea followed her with an eager step but stopped as they moved toward the poles and away from the window.
“What’s going on?” I asked Sharon.
“She’s interested and excited enough about the hay and wants to follow me but keeps stopping. It’s like there is now a passion to move towards the goal but something keeps stopping her.” Sharon responded.
“There appears to be something still missing for her to want to reach the goal” I said to Sharon.
“I don’t know what that is?” Sharon replied
“How about trust and faith…could it be Chelsea doesn’t feel that in your relationship yet?” I asked her.
“Yes, that’s it!” So Sharon spent some time relating to Chelsea. After stroking her, talking to her and encouraging her with her body language and words in a gentle yet firm tone, Sharon once again asked Chelsea to follow her.
This time with eyes on the goal, Chelsea walked with Sharon over the poles as though they weren’t even there and straight to the cone that represented the goal. If I could describe the difference of what changed in both of them, I would say it was an internal lightness of heart, a bounce in their steps with renewed energy, and a determination that they could both do this! There wasn’t even a hint of hesitation this time. With a screech of joy and excitement of what they’d accomplished together, Sharon gave Chelsea a big hug!
“So what changed?” I asked Sharon.
“Our eyes were on the goal and she didn’t even see the blocks. It was like they weren’t there at all!” Sharon’s voice was filled with excitement at the success of their partnership and the willingness of Chelsea’s changed demeanor.
“Chelsea is just like me! When I have faith and trust in God being with me and all the talents He’s given me, I want to go after my dreams and I get excited about everything but every time my eyes get on the blocks and I start thinking about all the reasons I can’t do it and won’t succeed, I stop going forward towards my dreams and circle back to my old life and what’s comfortable…Wow!!” Sharon exclaimed.
As we put everything away and put Chelsea’s halter on to lead her back to her stall, Sharon said, “I’m going to call this the Chelsea Principle so I never forget that with faith and passion, I can achieve whatever I keep my eyes on! The joy and excitement is in the process of achieving the goal!”
What profound truth a shy and quiet horse was able to show my client. There was a message from the Ranch that evening…
Each day we are creating our stories with the thoughts and decisions we make… Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and be sure we are creating the story we want to write with our life…
Trish Andros Carlo, CPC, MP-ELI
Story Book Meadows
Life Coaching & Equine Assisted Learning


Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

One of the things I hear over and over in sessions is how lonely people feel. This feeling that is shared by clients of all ages and shows up in those who have lots of friends, are fully engaged in activities, are married, those who have a large social calendar or those who are alone. Why is loneliness so prevalent? Is it more common today than it was years ago? Is it stemming from rejection, abandonment, selfishness or just a lack of real honesty? Why do people who are surrounded by other people still feel lonely? And on the other end of the spectrum, why do some people who are frequently alone never feel lonely?

The Wikipedia definition of loneliness is as follows:

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental or emotional factors. Research has shown that loneliness is widely prevalent throughout society among people in marriages, relationships, families and successful careers. It has been a long explored theme in the literature of human beings since classical antiquity. Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate him/her to seek social connections.

In a recent session a teenage girl (I’ll call her Liz) shared how she felt lonely all the time. Liz is very popular at school, even to the point that she is known by everyone in the school. She has lots of friends and does well in her grades. She is attractive, kind, generous and seemed to really have it all together. So why would she feel lonely?

I knew that Liz was speaking the truth because the horses had already shown me what was going on inside of her. It was her first session and I had instructed her to greet each of the horses (there were four in the arena) and get to know them. In sessions, the horses are completely free and able to choose to act of their own will. Once a session begins their behavior reflects the emotions they sense from the client. In this first session the horses had separated into the four corners of the arena and stood quietly watching, totally disengaged from each other, me and Liz. As she went to each horse to greet them and spend time with them, they stayed separate and alone. They spent a few moments checking her out then continued to stand like statues in their self-imposed isolation.

It was fascinating for me to watch as they had never done this before. She finished greeting them and came back to share with me what was happening for her. She felt they didn’t like her and this was when she felt lonely. She shared how that was how she felt at school too. While she was talking to me in the center of the arena the horses all came into the middle to gather around us. She told me how she couldn’t be herself with her friends because she didn’t think they would like her if she honest and that it was hard for her to be “fake” when she was with them. As she shared her truth with me Justice nudged her strongly enough that she was forced to notice him and began to stroke his neck and face. Then Patch tried to come closer to Liz but Justice stepped between them to prevent Patch from getting any closer. So now Liz was beside Justice patting him while Patch, Ares and Athena surrounded her in a loose circle. I asked if she noticed what the horses were doing and how she felt now. She said she did not feel lonely anymore.

There were so many life lessons in that one session.

1. The horses were reflecting back what she was presenting to them. Many times when we feel lonely we are unconsciously sending out negative energy that will cause others to stay away. It’s like we put up a wall that stops the closeness that we are craving so badly. Usually it’s because we’ve been rejected before and are afraid it will happen again so we self-sabotage our very real need to be accepted. This was why the horses were mirroring her sense of being separate. That was in fact how she saw herself. When you are a child of Christ, you are never alone!

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

2. As she spoke her truth the horses were able to break free of the negative energy she was feeling and fill her need for community. When the light shines on the truth, darkness falls away. As we speak how we are really feeling, God fills the need inside of us for true friendship and love and the negative energy disappears allowing others to get close to us. When we put on an act or a “brave front” while hiding the truth we’ve opened the door to the enemy of our soul who will take us down that path of destructive thoughts. We must always find someone to share your deepest feelings and fears with who will not judge us!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

3. Justice showed her how to overcome her loneliness by seeking her out. He purposely walked up to her, nudged her and demanded attention. When we are feeling lonely it is up to us to let someone know. Other people are not mind readers and cannot be expected to know how we are feeling. Because our worlds are so busy, we frequently miss subtle signals. We figure if someone is popular and appears to be well liked then they couldn’t possibly be lonely. This is one of the major errors of our society today and it is up to each of us to seek out some attention from someone who cares. Most times the person we seek out knows exactly how we are feeling and would be happy to help us because there was probably a time in their life when they felt the same way!

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

4. When she was honest about her feelings, the entire herd surrounded her with the acceptance she desired. As she embraced them, they reflected that honesty back to her. When we are seeking out friends, marriage partners or any type of relationship it is important to be truthful in representing ourselves. It is only when we show others who we really are that we find people that respect and honor us for those very special God given qualities. If we misrepresent ourselves thinking we need to be someone different in order to be accepted and liked, we are setting ourselves up for those deep feelings of loneliness in the future.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”

It is our job to share our hurts with one another so we can be healed.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

As we finished the session I told Liz to walk around the arena. As she did Justice walked freely beside her, fully embracing their new friendship. When she turned, he turned; when she stopped he stopped. Then the other three joined in and followed a little farther back. As she watched this happen she looked at me with a big smile and said, “They’re choosing to be with me!”

Having spent many years with various age groups of horses there is one thing I’ve always noticed. Horses, similar to us; do not like to be alone. There is safety in numbers and they have a social need to belong to a herd. When watching herds of young horses it was always interesting to observe them finding friends and interacting with each other. There was lots of kicking, biting and running going on as they determined among themselves who would be friends with whom and who they would chase off. Even in the adult horse herds there would be certain horses that became fast friends and others that would be chased away. But in each herd, every horse would find someone to be friends with. Someone to scratch their back, watch their back and eat with. I noticed that any time one horse needed companionship they would always actively seek out another horse. I have never seen a lonely horse except when a human has physically separated it from other horses. The distress the horse felt under those circumstances was real and debilitating to the animal.
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Like the horses, it is important that we realize some people will like us and some won’t; but that God’s love never fails. We don’t need to be liked by everyone but we do need to be liked for ourselves. Love is a choice. Choosing who we are going to spend time with is extremely important and I pray we choose wisely. There is never a time in our life when we are not loved. As children of God we were chosen by God and can never be separated from His love. If we have deep feelings of loneliness, we must recognize that those feelings are a warning that we need to seek someone to share with. Act on it!

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:4-6

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

May 28th 2013–The Exodus…

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Our journey started in April 2013. I had been packing for the last month and had the household things boxed and ready. Finally, I was going home…..back to Ontario, Canada.

On the first leg of the trip I would take all the barn/horse supplies, books and heavy things that were in the storage unit. My friend Shirley had flown down to drive up with me since I was taking the truck and horse trailer. The last few days were of course very stressful but as we left Florida behind, my thoughts turned to my promised land.

Bridge to Canada....1st load with the horse trailer!

Bridge to Canada….1st load with the horse trailer!

I have been in Florida since 1991. I’ve worked non-stop running a boarding, breeding, racing and training stable on 125 acres for over 15 years, mostly alone. Then I had spent the last 5 years working with at-risk youth offering Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. But with several health problems and a complete intolerance for the summer heat, I knew it was time to go home. My mother had a stroke three years ago and is in a wheelchair while my father struggles to look after her. I felt an urgency in my spirit for the past few years to get back to Ontario. With the real estate market, however, it’s been tough to find a buyer for the Florida farm. All who have visited Story Book Meadows in Ocala, Florida had appreciated the fabulous facility and grounds that were immaculate and inspired. With the pond and pastures, the many granddaddy oak trees and horses, there was a beauty and peace over the property that every visitor felt.

When we crossed over the border to Ontario, it was cold and windy but there was such a sense of familiarity, a sense of coming home even though so much of the landscape had changed over the past twenty years. I had not been able to come home very often even for visits because of the responsibilities of the large number of horses on the Florida farm. The border crossing was uneventful and I received my stamped paperwork indicating I was now a returning resident of Canada. I was leaving behind my US landed immigrant status. After unloading the trailer a few days later, I immediately returned to Florida for the 2nd load.

The Horses heading north from Ocala with Perry Horse Transport

The Horses leaving the Ocala farm with Perry Horse Transport

Taking a few weeks to finish packing the house and grounds and preparing the horses for the long trip, towards the end of May we were ready for our adventure. I’d been so anxious to leave for so long I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. My health was better, and I knew everything would be great once I got out of the heat. We loaded the horses on the large Perry Transport van with lots of equipment and waved them off. Three days later we had finished loading the horse trailer, the flatbed trailer (with corral panels and lawnmower), all five dogs and away we went. I had such mixed feelings as I drove down the driveway for the last time. Florida had been good to me but also there had been much pain…

Gary and some of the dogs on the way

Gary and some of the dogs on the way

I’d been through a divorce; I’d lost my dream of the thoroughbred farm because of several injuries and adrenal collapse from the stress and overwork. I’d had to close down my non-profit when I didn’t have enough help and I was leaving behind six horses and seven dogs buried on the property who had been my very best friends. There were old friends and new acquaintances I was leaving behind and I would miss them tremendously. But I knew God was calling me back to my homeland. He had heard my cries and answered them giving us this opportunity to return to the country of my youth. It was a tiring trip but I thought “Finally, I’m going home!”

Gary's loaded trailer arrived in Loretto

Gary’s loaded trailer arrived in Loretto

The final trip up was uneventful and tiring and we had a few chuckles with the five Jack Russell’s on the journey. It was their first time on a long road trip and staying in hotels. We crossed into Canada through Detroit on May 28th and were greeted by friendly and efficient Border Agency Officers. I felt the Lord’s favor on each part of the trip and was very thankful for the easy trip. I was anxious to get to our new home since the horses were already there. The previous owner had agreed to stay a week at the farm to look after them until we arrived. I was so thankful for her friendship and help.

The final load arrived in mid-July...finally our backhoe, tractor, Kubota 4 x 4 and we were farmers again!

The final load arrived in mid-July…finally our backhoe, tractor, Kubota 4 x 4 and bushhog…now we were farmers again!

As Gary & I pulled into the drive and let the dogs into their new yard, we were so excited! The horses greeted us with whinnies once they heard our familiar voices. I could see they were stressed and nervous in their new pastures. Gone were the wide open fields of grass in Florida…they had arrived to small paddocks that were overgrazed and overgrown with weeds. Part of the farm was three board fencing and part was four strand electric hotwire, which they weren’t used to.

We unloaded what we would need into the empty house for the first night and settled down. In the morning we had a closer look around. I noticed much more than I had when I viewed the property. All of a sudden it didn’t look as “ready” to use as I’d thought. I looked at all the work that needed to be done and the difference from the picture perfect farm I had left behind….and the doubts started!

When we arrived and before changing the fencing.

When we arrived and before changing the fencing.

The next day the weather dropped to 36 degrees. We had to find the horses blankets and put them on. Poor Sasha was shivering. They had left 95 degree weather to come to the Canadian North! What a shock to their systems. But they were frisky and excited and running around much more than they did in that heat. More doubts plagued our minds. And the murmuring started. We were sure we had made a mistake. It was so much easier in Florida!

As we were running around town the next day, considering packing the dogs and horses back up and going back to Florida, we passed the Alliston Pentacostal Church about five minutes from our home. We looked at each other and knew that was where we needed to go. We now had so many doubts about God’s plan in leading us here that I was wondering if we’d missed His voice somehow. It was Saturday afternoon so we planned on going to church the next morning.

We spent most of Saturday night grumbling and complaining about the cold weather in May. Apparently the locals were grumbling too because it was unseasonably cold. We were putting the horses into the stalls during the night until they were more used to the facility and turning them out with blankets in the morning. I tried to assure Gary that it would only last a couple of days. We only had our summer clothes unpacked at that point so we layered to find warmth.

On Sunday morning we arrived at church to be greeted by many warm and friendly people. Of course no one could understand why we would leave Florida to come back here! I had to keep reminding myself I couldn’t take the heat anymore. As we settled into the service we found ourselves feeling very much at home. The worship was fabulous, and of course the message was just on time… the Pastor spoke about how God had you just where you’re supposed to be; that even though things seem a certain way, there is really something deeper going on…..something big that God has planned which is why He has us just where He wants us. By the end of the service, Gary and I looked at each other and knew that God had given us confirmation to silence our fears and doubt. As we spoke to people in the congregation I met several who were interested in what I did with the horses and in partnering with me. Where I had struggled in Florida to get a program going in my own strength, here God was just handing me the plans. I was so excited!

Their new tranquil!

Their new pastures…how tranquil!

I realized we had acted so much like the Israelites in the Old Testament. When God heard their cries to deliver them from the brutal hands of the Egyptians and sent Moses to help them escape, they repaid God with grumbling and complaining and the constant demand to return to Egypt where life was “easier”. I knew we were behaving like them. God showed the Israelites miracle after miracle yet they still didn’t ‘trust’ Him. The great thing about having The Holy Bible to learn from is that we don’t have to make the same mistakes. The move had been hard. Packing up an entire 50 acre farm (which took about 4 four months) including horses, household furnishings, stable equipment, tractors, mowers, tools, backhoe, tack and dogs isn’t an easy task at the best of times but moving all the way from Florida over the border to Canada was exhausting. But I didn’t want to wander for forty years in the wilderness missing my promised land, so I thanked God that he confirmed His purpose in bringing us home and we settled into making this new ranch a place to do His work.

property 006

As the weeks passed and new fencing started going up, the horses became more at ease here. We tore down the wire fencing, opened up the paddocks and made larger pastures and put up the same fencing we had in Ocala. They started to feel more secure and at home as they had room to run again and grass to eat! The weather was fabulous all summer with very few hot Florida days. Justice and Noah, the two oldest, were so much better with the cooler summer. We’ve been so blessed with God’s favor and the friendliness of the community. I’d forgotten how wonderful the Canadian people are. It really feels like home now!

Now we look forward to the exciting things God has in store for us here in our Promised Land as He brings those in need of healing down our driveway and into His arms through His angels in horse hair. As we open our farm and our hearts to our community we hope they will find the comfort we did as His creatures greet them and the peace of His presence encompasses them.

Praise and Glory be to God our Heavenly Father!

Riding out the Storm

Monday, June 25th, 2012

As I write this, we’re in the middle of Tropical Storm Debby. We’ve already had 9 inches of rain in two days and the end is not in sight. The skies are grey, the wind is whistling through the trees as boughs bend and branches are falling from the weight of wet moss. The ground is soggy and we can no longer use the golf cart to feed without getting stuck. There is a small lake at the back of the property that wasn’t there yesterday and the swamp is overflowing. The frogs are singing loudly while the birds are hiding in their nests. I’m sure an alligator or two will wander through our property looking for a bigger pond. The bands of rain keep sweeping through with a steady downpour. The weather channel tells me there is a tornado warning and that this will last another few days. Flooding is everywhere and the thunder is deafening. We’re thankful our home and barns are high and dry. We’re thankful the pastures drain nicely so the horse’s feet stay healthy. We’re thankful the storm doesn’t have hurricane winds.

When the first rain starts falling, depending on the personality of each horse, they have several reactions. Sasha starts rearing, bucking and energetically showing her dislike of the elements. Then once she settles down and realizes she isn’t going to stop the rain with her antics, she runs to the shelter. In the next pasture, Rose throws a few kicks and bucks while Chief calmly walks to the shelter and stays inside until it stops. Rose follows shortly and they huddle together in friendship. Hollywood gets down and rolls, trying to dry himself as quickly as the rain falls. Justice, Patch, Ares and Athena continue grazing as though the storm around them cannot touch them.

When the storms hit our ranch here in Central Florida, we “hunker down and ride them out.” We’ve found it is a waste of time to rant, rave, scream, get angry or otherwise complain and waste our precious energy, trying to show our dislike of the unchangeable situations. After all, what can we really do about the weather. And if we’re honest with ourselves, what can we really do about the storms of life. The disappointments, tragedies, lost chances, broken dreams, ended relationships, financial ruin and many more all envelope us at various stages of our lives. These are the trials and tribulations that Jesus talks about in the Bible. Things that happen that could very well destroy us, if we don’t learn how to deal with them.

Since horses have a very high level of emotional intelligence (a high EQ), meaning they’ve learned how to keep their emotions level and calm, let’s look at what they do, and see what we can learn from the herd…

1. Sasha threw a fit at first then ran to the shelter while the storm raged. These are the drama queens. Every time there is trouble, we scream, cry, blame everyone else for our troubles, get angry and generally carry on at emotional levels that far exceed the trouble. Eventually we get to the point of realizing that the past is over and we must pick ourselves up and carry on. By the time we get to this point however, we’re exhausted, stressed and have generally made everyone else exhausted and stressed. We’ve destroyed our own joy and the joy of everyone around us. As we go to our “shelter” to ride out the storm, we’re depressed and looking to medicate our pain. We try drugs, alcohol, shopping, eating or hiding to overcome our pain at whatever ‘storm’ has invaded our lives. Our health suffers. Disease attacks our bodies and our strength is weakened. But Sasha rebelled for only a few minutes before running for shelter. How long do we stay in the storm, tossing every which way before we finally realize that we need to seek the shelter of the MOST HIGH GOD…see Psalm 91. Unfortunately, some of us never grab hold of the joy that can be found in Jesus and the freedom He offers.

2. Chief calmly walks to the shelter but Rose, like Sasha, throws a few kicks at first then follows Chief to shelter. It’s interesting to watch this pair as Chief ignores Rose’s antics and leads the way to shelter. On her own Rose would continue to stress for awhile but with the steady influence of Chief, she settles and follows his calm leadership. In families and relationships, many times we need the guiding influence of a steadier person to help us ride out our storms. Accepting help can be a difficult thing for many people for many reasons. They may feel unworthy of help. They may have too much pride to accept help. But sometimes they’ve simply never had someone offer them help and don’t really understand how to accept it. Many people don’t understand that a helping hand is a blessing from God. It is the answer to their prayer. Rose trusted Chief enough to know he would not lead her astray. When you have confidence in the person offering you help…let them bless you and in offering a helping hand, they will in return be blessed. It won’t change the trouble, but it will give you comfort during those darker days.

3. Hollywood rolls trying to dry himself and minimize the effects of the storm. While Hollywood tries to dry himself, he is looking to evade the storm. He tries and tries to dispel the discomfort and cover up the situation. He races around the pasture trying to outrun the storm, until finally, it is too much and he knows that isn’t the solution. Many times we also try to minimize the damage of the trials in our lives. We hide the problems we are facing and put on a happy face all the while hurting inside while we carry the burden ourselves. But while the storm is raging around us, there is damage to everyone involved. While we hide our true situation, families are hurt by the lack of truth, our own health suffers in living a lie and frequently any others who are involved are hurt worse than if we were right up front in the beginning. In the end, the darkness comes to light while the storm still rages outwardly. How many of us rage against God, blaming him for our troubles instead of seeking him in repentance, knowing that He is right there beside us waiting for us to come back to Him.

4. Justice, Patch, Ares & Athena calmly graze while the rain pounds down and the water rises up. These four horses (my EAL herd) show the deep sense of peace that comes from knowing their creator is in charge. Although the other horses take a little longer to remember the truth that these four have already conquered, this wise herd faces their trials by calmly engaging in their everyday routines. They turn their hindquarters to the storm, as the relentless rain continues to drench them, secure in their knowledge that after the storm the sun will shine again. The wisest of us have learned to go through the storm while hanging onto our peace. We have learned to turn our butt’s to the trouble and pray in faith and wait in peace for the storm to pass. In knowing Christ as our savior, we are able to meditate on His many promises as our boat starts to sink…knowing that He is with us. He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. We must learn to recognize which storms have come upon us because of our bad choices and which ones surround us because God is allowing our trouble in order to build our character to become more like Christ. And sometimes He allows the problems in our lives so we will return to Him in repentance…it is a loving form of discipline to believers. No matter what the reason for our trouble, we can rise above our emotions and, with wisdom, trust God.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2-4

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

In knowing that God is always with us and loves us we can rest in His presence as the wind blows and the rain falls around us. When we have built our house on the foundation of Christ, we know that each problem is a chance for us to grow our character into the image of Christ. We know that He is ultimately in control and we are able to put on “a garment of praise, instead of a spirit of despair” Isaiah 61:-3. “And we know that all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. Let us remember that this is a NARROW promise. It is only for those ‘who love him, who have been called.’ This promise is for children of Christ, for those who have been born again. For without Him, there is no hope. If you don’t know Christ but would like some spiritual coaching, please call for a session. If you are ready to give your life to Christ, please contact us to pray with you. Then find a Christ centered church to attend and begin your new life.

So sisters and brothers in Christ, the next time we face a situation that causes us to feel despair, sorrow or anger, let us not forget who is ultimately in charge. The next time we feel we won’t survive the storm, let’s remember these words of comfort from our Creator. Let’s get control of those thoughts that rule our emotions. Let’s remember He holds each of our lives in His hands and if He is allowing us to go through a trial, it is only to lovingly help us grow into better human beings; to seek Him, to honor Him and to worship Him….for that is the reason He created us! The sun will shine tomorrow!


My Story

Monday, June 25th, 2012

What my horses taught me …


By Trish Andros Carlo….”dedicated to the little girl in every woman who always wanted a horse or her own…”


Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
– Psalm 37:4


As a child I was timid and shy and scared of being with people. At school I had few friends and was the brunt of many jokes. At a time when most kids were thin, I was the fattest child in the school. I couldn’t do sports because my co-ordination was terrible, I really couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Everyone would laugh when I tried to run a relay race because I was miles behind the rest of the class. So I studied and read and became an honor student in of all my courses but that made them bully me more, because I was the ‘browner’, the teacher’s pet. My teenage crushes went unnoticed by boys who only looked at the prettiest girls. So I ate more cakes and cookies to make up for my unhappiness and I hid from people.

Trish & Moonshadow 1974

At the age of fourteen, my life changed. I found a friend who accepted me just the way I was. He didn’t care what I looked like, how fast I could run or how smart I was. He was kind and gentle and gave me his undivided attention. He was tall and golden with a white mane and tail. His name was Moonshadow and he was my first horse. I would spend hours with him each day after school, brushing his silky coat and talking to him about everything that was important to a teenager. When I climbed into the saddle, we became one with each other. As we galloped over the green hills of Canada with the roar of the wind in my hair and the thunder of his pounding hooves, I could feel his strength and his power with each stride. Nothing could stop us, we were flying. We were free.

Over the next few years, we spent every possible moment together. Our communication was completely without words. When I rode him, he would respond to my thoughts before I asked him with my legs. I understood him, and he understood me. It was like we were connected in mind, body and spirit. We spent many hours in the sunshine amongst the birds and the trees either riding for hours over the trails or with me just sitting on the ground reading a book while Moonshadow grazed beside me. His calm, rhythmic munching was a comfort to my soul. There was nothing I couldn’t tell him. He was eager to hear my every secret and story. He would nudge me when I cried and play with me when I laughed. He was truly my best friend.

The lessons Moonshadow taught me would stay with me for a lifetime. He taught me how to conquer my fears as we sailed over four foot jumps. He taught me how to be confident each time we entered the show ring. He taught me how to celebrate when we won our first blue ribbon. He taught me who my real friends were, when the kids at the barn accepted me as part of their team. He taught me about partnership and how to give and take. He taught me to be a good leader because he only followed me when I got it right. He taught me to be responsible as I fed him and cleaned his stall each day. He taught me how to solve problems when I needed to figure something out. He taught me about patience and persistence when I had trouble training him. He taught me about laughter when he would act silly and we played games. He taught me about commitment because I knew I’d keep him forever. He taught me about compassion, when he was sick one cold winter’s night and I stayed with him until the morning. He taught me about weight loss, and that physical exercise helped me get thin. He showed me that I ate less when we stayed busy and had lots of fun. He showed me how to build muscles as I stacked bales of hay into the loft each summer. He taught me that girls could do any job that guys could do as I dug post holes, built fences and drove a backhoe. He taught me how to say NO when I needed to set boundaries. He let me know when I was angry that he didn’t want to be around me. He taught me that jealousy was a wasted emotion and something he never felt.

Moonshadow at 31 years old, Trish & niece in 1993

He taught me to ask for affection as he nudged me when he wanted some loving. He taught me how to make decisions about the rest of my life. He taught me how to pray when he was injured and the vet said the infection may kill him. He taught me how to be thankful when God saved his life. He bolted out of fear one day and as I was falling off his back, he introduced me to my Guardian Angel who put me safely back in the saddle and saved me from a bad fall. Moonshadow taught me about a mother’s unselfish love as she drove me to the stables and waited hours while I rode on a cold snowy day. He taught me about a father’s unending generosity as Dad paid for all of his expenses. Moonshadow taught me to follow my heart because he always followed his. He never judged me or called me names and he taught me I could do anything I put my mind to. He taught me how to work hard and he taught me how to be still. He taught me how to be caring as he became older and in pain with arthritis in his joints. He taught me about honesty because horses NEVER lie. He taught me about integrity and I learned to do what’s right. He taught me not to worry about what others thought of me but to love myself because I was special. He taught me to show what I was feeling because horses are authentic. He taught me how to love unconditionally because he was an expert at forgiveness. He showed me what courage looked like, as he battled disease in his body. And after 39 years of life, with his final lesson, he taught me how to grieve. When I buried Moonshadow on my farm, I was sad for a moment, but in my mind I could see him galloping over the hills once more, and in my heart I knew his spirit would be forever in heaven with Jesus. We’d been partners for 28 years and he taught me how to celebrate life.

When I had left my teenage years behind and those carefree days at the farm became fewer, the lessons Moonshadow had taught me were embedded in my soul and would carry me through my life journey. Those lessons helped me start my own business at the age of 22. As a fashion consultant, I helped others find confidence in themselves. I was able to stand in front of a roomful of people and speak publicly, no longer terrified. When I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship, I knew enough to leave because I’d learned I deserved better. After college, I became the general manager of my father’s manufacturing company, taking control of the company with ease and determination. Although I still owned Moonshadow and a few other horses during my years in business, my heart was missing the connection of our spirits. So after ten years in the daily grind of corporate business, I moved to Ocala, Florida and bought a 125 acre farm. It was a strange country and a town where I knew no one but I thought of it as an adventure. I was soon to find there was another mixture of lessons that I would learn from my four legged friends. From breaking and training young horses to racing thoroughbreds, I operated a 40 horse thoroughbred farm. As I started breeding and foaling mares, the lessons continued. I learned from each age group of horses more and more about communication and the wisdom they could impart to me.

Moonshadow at 38 years of age in 2000

I learned about relationships because horses are the experts on relational harmony. I learned someone would always be in control, but it didn’t always have to be me. I watched foals with their mothers and learned how to discipline. I watched weanlings playing in the pasture and learned how to schedule fun into my day. I watched yearlings grow into adults and start their own careers and how determination and repetition had them winning at their game. I learned about second chances when my racehorse won a race after recovering from an injury that was supposed to be career ending. I learned that as long as I did my best I could accept whatever happened. I learned from my herd of horses how to get along with others and what acceptable behavior looked like. I learned it doesn’t matter what others think of me, but what I think of myself will guide my destiny. I learned I could choose who I wanted to spend time with and who I should walk away from. I learned to be direct and to ask for what I wanted. I learned to find balance in my life because that was the only way to thrive. I learned to be kind to others because we need each other to survive. I learned to hear without words and to look at the heart because it is wiser. I learned to love God’s creation and to spend time in nature every day. I learned that faith isn’t just a word, but the substance of what dreams are made of. I learned that love is a choice as the herd accepted a new member. I learned that peace comes from within as I watched the herd graze at sunset. I thought about the 40 years I’ve spent with my horses and realized they had been my teachers and my coaches.

Finally I knew it was time to follow my passion of helping others learn the lessons of life from horses too. Today I’ve become a Certified Life Coach and Equine Specialist and teamed up with my horses on our beautiful ranch to offer everyone the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of the herd. They taught me that I’m creating my life story by the actions I choose each day. Our coaching programs are for teens, women, couples, families, business teams and leaders.

Saying Goodbye…….

Friday, April 6th, 2012


* May 4, 2003 – March 7th , 2012 *

We buried Seth on March 7th, 2012, in a quiet spot beside the pond under an oak tree. He was my best friend. He was loyal, sensitive, loving, kind, gentle, joyful and very special, and the lessons his life and death taught me will continue in my heart forever.

Seth was born on May 4th 2003. July was the first time I saw him when he was loping around the yard of his breeder’s property with one other litter mate. They were the last two to be sold. I loved his kind eyes and his big, big, big feet. I knew he would be a very large Doberman when reaching his full growth.

When I took him home, he was introduced to Kayla, my 11 year old Doberman female who was quite possessive of my time, Scooter, a fun loving Jack Russell and Candy, (another JR) a stray who had given me five puppies the month before. I had decided to get another Doberman because Kayla was old and I didn’t want to be without a Dobie. I also figured since I was dealing with Candy’s puppies anyways, what was one more. So with a total of nine dogs, the next few months were heavy on the fun, lots of laughs and much cleaning of accidents on the floor. Grumpy Kayla spent much time growling at puppies but that didn’t deter them from trying to follow her everywhere and offer her lots of kisses.

As time moved along, the puppies grew up, one was sold and the rest found their spots in the family. They would all run along with the golf cart to help me feed the horses and roll and tumble play with each other at every opportunity.

After the death of Kayla and Scooter, our family was smaller but the bond between Seth and the other puppies was very strong. It was always quite funny to watch Seth think he was a Jack Russell as he swam in the pond and chased squirrels (I was told by a breeder that Dobermans hate water, hmmm) and to see the Jack Russell’s pretend to be guard dogs as strangers visited the farm. I’ve always found with my Dobermans that by the age of four they have become inseparable from me and Seth was no different. Wherever I was, he wanted to be by my side. It was his mission in life to spend time with me. Considering my love language is quality time, Seth filled me up with love. When Gary and I would be together, Seth would always snuggle right between us to be sure he was still close by.

When we started our program for at-risk youth, Seth was always there to greet the kids visiting the farm. His bark would terrify them until they took a chance to overcome their fear and would gather around him for hugs and kisses. Once they befriended him, he would not leave their side. For these often neglected children, he showed them what loyalty and love looked like. Many of the foster children visiting the ranch were taken away from their pets when they left their homes. Seth filled a spot that was hurting for them during that time in their lives.

Seth & Joey

In July of 2009 Seth suddenly stopped eating. Thinking he had an issue with his stomach, I took him to the vet. Within seconds of listening with the stethoscope, Dr. Culbertson informed me that it was his heart. With a feeling of dread, I asked him what that meant. He said his heart was in Atrial Fibrillation, he was in Heart Failure. Knowing Dobermans are prone to Cardio Myopathy and finding out my precious Seth now had the dreaded disease filled me with sorrow.

Thus began our journey of living with and managing this disease of the heart. We made an appointment with a Cardiologist in Gainesville immediately and after his thorough examination of x-rays, ultra sounds and EKG’s the final diagnosis was bleak. The vet told us of the many medications Seth needed to go on and that at most he would have six months. I was saddened and disheartened to hear these words. It was like a death sentence had been issued. As I drove Seth home I cried most of the way…for the years we wouldn’t have together and the loss of friendship that was close. The wonderful thing about animals of course is that Seth did not understand those fateful words spoken over him that day.

When I got home and watched Seth happily playing with his buddies, I prayed for direction for my next step. With all of the many horses and dogs I’ve owned over the years, I have always asked God for help in caring for them when I’ve been lost for knowledge. The bible tells us to pray for wisdom, and so I did. As I prayed for help in this situation, my heavenly Father reminded me that nothing was over and neither people nor animals died until He determined their time. I was to seek more answers and to pray continuously. Immediately, my fear was replaced with faith and I set up my next plan of attack. I made an appointment with UF to take Seth for an acupuncture appointment to see what eastern medicine could offer Seth in addition to western medicine. I also sent out a prayer request for everyone I knew to pray for Seth and we asked God to give us more time with Seth.

At the acupuncture appointment, I was given several Chinese Herbs to help strengthen his heart muscles and help his stomach. He began to eat better shortly after this appointment. Slowly Seth regained the weight he had lost and as the days wore on, he went back to his normal life. As we enjoyed our days with Seth, I knew his time was shorter but I also knew it was in God’s hands. Although it had been suggested Seth be kept on a leash, Gary and I determined this was not the life Seth would enjoy and we would not restrict his exercise in this way. We would rather his life be shorter than unhappy. The dog’s greatest joy was the times they ran the farm with us during feeding morning and night. This was when they knew they had our undivided attention. So time went on, we prayed daily for Seth’s disease to be cured and for more time with him. The six months came and went and still Seth enjoyed normal days, although he was on several medications for his heart.

Seth and his Jack Russells

Two years later almost to the day of his first symptoms, Seth started to cough. Alarmed, once again that the disease was changing, we went back to the vet. He now had water in his lungs. He was put on Lasix to remove the water and we had to be a little more careful of how he exercised. Finally, the time had come where he could no longer run great distances chasing squirrels or following his JR friends. As his heart got bigger, it was no longer able to pump the blood sufficiently enough to remove the fluids and they were building up in his lungs. So on our new schedule of medications, we continued on. Our prayers still brought us comfort knowing God cared for all of his animals.

In October of 2011, we had a medical emergency and took Seth to the University around 3am. I thought this would be it and he would have to be put to sleep. But Jesus our healer was once again with us and after spending the day at the University, Seth returned home once again bouncy and happy and feeling better than he had in weeks. We enjoyed this borrowed time we now had with him. But more damage had been done to his lungs and it seemed even he knew that his activities were now restricted. The hardest part was that his mind and will wanted to do so much more than his body would allow him to do. We could see the struggle he had when we wouldn’t let him run with his friends. He listened to us and we loved him that much more to make up for these changes. The medications once again were increased after this emergency (he was taking 35 pills a day) and our own time became more restricted as we needed to be home more often to give him his meds. It seemed I could only be away from the house for three or four hours at a time before I would need to get back for Seth. In the rare moments I felt a prisoner to him and his needs, my want to nurture and care for him quickly overpowered those thoughts. Daily we thanked God for this extra time Seth was with us because we knew the time was now short. We were given the gift of saying goodbye slowly.

Seth & JR's helping to feed the horses

By February, I took him back to the University for another check-up. They said there were no changes and that all his tests were fine. It seemed we still had months. Yet over the next few weeks we could see his heart fading right in front of us. The Lasix was taking longer to work and it seemed he was coughing more. Finally in the last week, Seth could barely walk from the golf cart to the house without having coughing fits. The dose was already very high, and I was afraid of him suffocating each night. Lungs filled with water from this disease are much like drowning in a pond. He couldn’t breathe comfortably without high doses of medicine. Even though Seth still wanted to do all the things with us he had always done, his body was giving out on him. He tried to still be a watchdog but barking would give him fits of coughing. He rode with us on the golf cart to feed but couldn’t wander around without fits of coughing. And so we knew it was time. From the beginning of the disease I had wondered how I would know when it was time but as that moment approached, I knew that Seth no longer had a quality of life worth living…and although he would keep trying, it wasn’t fair to him when I couldn’t explain to him how sick he really was. As I made an appointment with our vet to come to the farm to euthanize Seth, the tears were falling non-stop. I couldn’t believe the time had finally come to say goodbye. As I went through the routine of our last day together I was so sad. Sad enough that Seth knew something was wrong as he tried to comfort me all day. Even in his distress, he thought only of me. It was our last time to feed together, our last time to play; the last time I would sit on his bed with him and just stroke his soft coat. It was his last ride on the golf cart, and the last time he would play with his Jack Russell friends. It was 7:30 in the evening when the vet arrived. I had spent the last hour sitting on the back deck with him, telling him how much I loved him. I knew I would miss this closeness that we shared but I also knew this was the right thing to do. Seth was suffering with his breathing and I held him as we let him go home to Jesus.

My comfort came from many places. The vet told me Seth had lived longer with this disease than any other dog he’d known in heart failure. He thanked me for taking care of him for so long because many of his clients would have quit much sooner. I knew that the extra time had been God’s answer to our prayers. Although I had hoped He would heal Seth completely, I was grateful to have had the extra time. I knew that I had given Seth more of my presence and love than I would have had he not been sick. You see, I had stopped taking him for granted because I knew the end could come at any time. This was one of those gifts I had learned from his illness. That I needed to love those close to me every day and that time was short and there isn’t always a tomorrow.

I was also comforted knowing that Seth was in heaven with Jesus and I would one day be with him again. Yes animals do go to heaven. The heaven that Jesus speaks of in the bible is a place of unimaginable beauty and scripture is filled with times when God tells us how much he cares for every animal. My God had shown me once years ago that my dogs were with Him. So I knew our time apart was only temporary.

But most importantly, I learned that prayers are heard and that God is in control. Our faith kept Seth with us for far longer than what was normal. He outlived the initial vet’s forecast by over two years. I learned what sacrificial love is in caring for Seth as his needs always came before mine. I now live with a better understanding of what Jesus did for me when he died on the cross so I can spend eternity with Him. His death was the ultimate in sacrificial love. And I learned what it was to be loved unconditionally by a big black and tan dog.

The next few days and weeks were tough for all of us. Seth wasn’t there to greet me at the gate when I came home. He wasn’t taking up most of the golf cart seat as we fed the horses. Seth wasn’t growling at Tyler in their ongoing battle for dominance and Seth wasn’t on his big bed sleeping with Zoe cuddled up beside him. It wasn’t time for his pills every four hours and I didn’t have to rush home to let him out because the Lasix was working so quickly. But mostly, Seth wasn’t there for me to love on when I needed some pet therapy myself. His big brown eyes weren’t looking over the gate to greet me each morning ready to face the joys of the day. It was the first time in over twenty years that there wasn’t a Doberman in my family. Although our sadness and grief was great, I knew Seth was in a place where there are no more tears and no more pain. He is blessed and at peace with his Creator.

Goodbye Seth, you are forever in my heart!

Seth on our last day together

(If anyone has not accepted Jesus a their Lord and Savior or isn’t sure if their eternal destination is heaven, please call or email us to find out more about what happens after death or find a bible based church to attend to learn more about the salvation available to all in Christ Jesus)

(If you are struggling with grief over the loss of those dear to you, I can recommend a wonderful and compassionate Grief Coach to you….please visit

What does Peace look like?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The horse arrived a few days ago and as I watched him out the window I noticed he was still pacing. At a fairly brisk walk he would follow the fence line for about a hundred feet, turn on his forehand and continue walking in the other direction along the fence another hundred feet. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth he went, occasionally even breaking into a jog. His head would stay over the fence gazing at some distant point as if he could see something that I couldn’t. I had been observing this behavior for the last two days. Already he had a trench dug into the paddock fence line that was close to four inches deep. The only time he paused in his anxious pacing was to eat his grain and hay. The paddock was full of green grass yet he wouldn’t stop long enough to eat it. He wasn’t interested in his current surroundings. Now anyone who has had horses behaving this way knows it is very disturbing to watch for several reasons. Firstly, it permanently destroys the paddock. The trench will never fill in the same way again and I’ve seen pastures that literally have a trench over a foot deep. Secondly, it’s just not healthy for the horse. Ulcers, foot ailments, colic, are only a few of the ailments that could result from his behavior. He is a three year old gelding off the track and is here to board for the winter season. In the spring he will return to the track where he has already raced a few times. His anxious behavior externally was a reflection of his anxious thoughts.

Kickin' Key Lime pacing & pacing

Because horses are herd animals, I figured this guy wanted to be out with the other horses. So I put him in another paddock with a buddy to keep him company. He was happy for about two hours, when the pointless, mindless pacing started again. Now he was upsetting the other horse. So I moved him back to his own paddock where he could still see horses all around him. I tried putting tires along the fence line to stop the track but he just moved inside the tires and kept pacing. I let it go a few more days to see if he would calm down on his own but nothing changed. So thinking to help him deal with his anxious thoughts, I started him on a 30 day tranquilizer. As the drug took effect, he stopped his pacing and spent the hours eating grass and dozing in the sunshine. Problem solved, at least for now. But at the end of the thirty days, I will take him off the tranquilizer and hope he has learned that life today can be enjoyed while he waits for the changes of the future. Horses with this level of internal/external anxiety rarely become successful in their journey of life. They wear themselves out long before they reach the finish line.

As I reflected on the behavior of this horse, I thought about how many times in my own life I’ve acted the same way. I admit I am a worrier. It is a behavior I detest about myself. And I come by it honestly since my mother was also a worrier. Like most of our behavior patterns, it is learned and it is possible to be unlearned. After all, I wasn’t born a worrier. These behavior patterns come from our thoughts which originate in our hearts. That is why the bible tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23) In order to learn how to let go of worry, I must learn to trust God. But like the horse, sometimes, I am so focused on where I want to be in the future, I forget to enjoy the bountiful blessings that are all around me at the moment. And when I take to ‘pacing the fence line’ in my life, I don’t always realize how much it is hurting me, my environment and those around me. I get fixated on a goal (after all that is my choleric personality) and I sometimes forget the pasture full of grass that is already around me. Because we want what we want and we worry about whether or not we’ll ever get it, we start to medicate ourselves when we can’t have it or it’s not available immediately. We eat too much, drink too much, take medications, overwork, or under work. We do whatever it takes to ease our distress and anxiety. For me, once anxiety sets in, depression isn’t far behind. I have found that the health hazard of spending a lifetime pacing the fence line is failing adrenals. I cannot allow myself to stress anymore because my adrenals no longer function normally and I end up totally exhausted. So I guess in the end, I have learned how to seek peace. In this world today many, many people are living under so much self-inflicted stress much like the gelding. They are metaphorically pacing and pacing and mindlessly, endlessly pacing and their health and relationships are suffering. Our thoughts are the root of our behaviors. Anxiety comes from stress which comes from fear. Change our thoughts, and our actions will follow.

If only I could tell that little horse that he was safe in that paddock alone. That he will be fed and cared for and after a few months of vacation, he’ll be heading back to all the action again. You see that horse is an adrenaline junkie too. He loves to run (after all he is a thoroughbred). He can’t stay still, at least not without medication. For his own good, he is on vacation to grow and mature and prosper. He needs this time for his bones to become stronger. But I can’t tell him these things and he doesn’t trust me and so I cannot help him.

I wonder how often God is watching us pace the fence lines of our lives, anxious for something, anything, other than what we have right now. I wonder how often He is wishing that we would just TRUST HIM because He has a great plan for our life if only we would wait on Him. I wonder how many times we miss God’s great plan for us by making unwise decisions because we just want to do anything to relieve the worry. These days whenever I feel the urge to start ‘pacing the fence line’, I say out loud “Trust in the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever” over and over until I begin to see and feel what peace looks like in my life. I have learned to change my thoughts, which in effect changes my behavior. Sound simple? It is. And you can’t just give lip service to those words, but you must truly believe them in your heart. Trust God. You must believe with childlike faith. That’s what Jesus taught us.

That's what peace looks like!

If anyone else has seen themselves in the actions of this horse, please consider growing your faith…Embrace a new thought, take the action needed and trust God! Speak it out loud, pray it to God and BELIEVE IT! As a child of the Most High, His power is available to each and every one of us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:6-8

At this exciting time of the year, let the words of the angels guide your thoughts…. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward menLuke 2:14

In the words of Jesus “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”John 14:27

Much love and a very Merry Christmas,


(In the past fifteen years I’ve cared for hundreds of young thoroughbreds and many of them displayed this same behavior. But until I took the training for Equine Assisted Experiential Learning I didn’t see the metaphor of how their behavior mirrors what we do. Many of the Life Skills we teach the youth and adults participating in our programs are learned by interacting and watching the herd. Self-awareness and personal development are so important to live the abundant life we are promised.)

Seeking His Protection

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

The purpose of this blog is to share the things I’ve learned from the horses in my lifetime. The other day I was speaking with a friend of over 30 years about seeking God and how hard it is when we are surrounded by worldly ways. We talked about why her life was filled with trials and how she felt it was more than she could handle. We talked about why it was happening to her and when I hung up from our conversation, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind a memory that serves as a wonderful example of the teaching I had just shared with her. The memory is such a strong visual that I felt moved to write this story for you in the hopes that you will gain some insight too….

In 1974 my sister and I both owned horses and kept them at a large boarding facility in southern Ontario. We were both teenagers and rode our horses most evenings after school and on weekends. Her horse was a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred gelding named Golden Ontario and his barn name was Fred. My horse was a palomino gelding named Moonshadow. At this stable, all the horses were turned out together during the day in a large pasture of about 10 acres in size. There were geldings and mares mixed together of all ages.

Within the first week of moving to this stable, Fred had become the herd boss. To those of you who don’t know herd dynamics, there is only one Alpha horse in any herd and all others follow a pecking order down the line from the highest to the lowest. The order is determined by the substance of the horse. It doesn’t matter what breed, age, size or color the horse is. Their inner strength, ability, dominance and integrity or their total character is what determines their order. This is a rule of their species. As a leader is selected, all of the others bow to their position and authority.

Even years ago as a teenager, I remember noticing something interesting about these herd dynamics. When Fred was in the field he was Number 1, the boss, the leader. At 5:00 when the horses were being brought into the barn to feed, Fred was first at the gate. And who do you think was Number 2. Yes, it was Moonshadow. But knowing my horse, and his more laid back personality, it surprised me to see him right there next to Fred. However they were the best of friends and had always been so. As soon as Fred was taken out of the field, Moonshadow’s place dropped almost to last. In a heartbeat, without Fred, he was lost in the crowd. I realized that Moonshadow was basking in the power and presence of Fred as his leader. Once he was no longer beside Fred, he lost that protection and the power that had been reflected on him.

Fred and Moonshadow

I’m sure by now you see where this story is going and the metaphor. Yes, Fred is like our Lord Jesus and Moonshadow is like each one of us.

Once I noticed this amazing phenomenon in horse behavior I started to look for more interesting information about the herd hierarchy. Whenever Moonshadow was out with Fred, he was grazing within a few feet of him. If any horse were to come near him, Fred would just look at the other horse and it would walk away. When Fred wanted to move somewhere else in the pasture, he would move to Moonshadow’s flank and push him to direct Moonshadow to where he wanted to go. Fred was always guiding Moonshadow from behind. He didn’t lead him, but nudged him quietly and gently in the direction that Fred decided was best for both of them. If Moonshadow refused to obey him one of two things happened. Either Fred was more forceful and would nip him in the haunches or Fred would walk away in the direction he had urged Moonshadow to go. Once Moonshadow realized he was no longer within the protection and safety of Fred’s presence, he would find other horses starting to pick on him and would quickly catch up to Fred again. I noticed over and over that Moonshadow was rarely more than a few feet from Fred. He had learned that it was the safest place for him to be. He also found out that when he was next to Fred, he had power. Other horses would listen to Moonshadow much as they listened to Fred. Of course Moonshadow never tried to tell Fred what to do. In that huge herd of thirty horses, Moonshadow found safety next to the alpha. The only time Fred was ever away from Moonshadow was when we took him out to be ridden. And again, I noticed that Moonshadow became lost. It took only moments for other stronger horses to pick on him and push him to the rear of the herd. He would be chased and kicked and had to run away from the danger. He no longer had the privilege or the power of being Number 2. Moonshadow would become just like the rest of the herd. He fell into the order established by the other horses. I noticed once Moonshadow walked away from Fred, and other horses chased him, Fred did not come rushing to his rescue. Instead, Moonshadow would have to choose to come back to the safety of Fred’s influence. What I also found interesting was that Fred only befriended selective horses. Only those horses who came humbly to Fred would be allowed into his circle and those horses would also bask in his power. While they were around him, there was peace in the herd because they all knew who the boss was and the natural order of things. The constant fighting and bickering between other horses did not reach the herd boss. He was the King of the Pasture.

So with this story, it is easy to see the parallel of our seeking and aligning ourselves with our Alpha. Jesus is the King of our lives and it is only while we stay close to him that we can bask in his power and protection. When we walk away from him or we refuse to follow his direction, we have lost that safety and in the end, we will lose the ability to find the life that He promised us. For Moonshadow it was easy. Just hang out with Fred and don’t get distracted. But for us, the world (or the rest of the herd) is very persuasive. It is easy to believe that small things won’t matter but in each step we take away from God, we lose Him. He will never leave us, but we are so easily persuaded to leave him. It is so hard to stay with the King when the rest of the herd is having so much fun and creating such a distraction for us. We find it difficult to stay focused on only one god. But we have to choose. We cannot have one foot near our leader and one foot in the world and still expect our lives to be safe. We wonder why our lives are so hard yet the answer is right there in what we are thinking and doing. Once we step away from His safety, what else can we expect than to get kicked? We have an enemy who is waiting for us to step away from our Savior. Just as the other horses immediately attacked Moonshadow and pushed him back the moment he was no longer near Fred, we have an enemy that will take control of our life once we step away from Jesus.

The problem is most of us do not realize we have stepped away from Him. We think as long as we believe we’re good. And that is true, believing will get you to Heaven. But it is your day to day relationship with Jesus that will bring you an abundant life in this world. Even small steps away from Him allows the influence of the world to intrude. We think it is okay to praise him one minute and continue with our worldly pursuits the next. It is the little things that our enemy uses to distance us from our protector. Whether we choose to disobey our leader or we lack the knowledge of His kingdom, either way we become caught up in the consequences of our choice. It is not okay to live without integrity. It is not okay to say you will do something then not do it because you don’t ‘feel’ like it. It is not okay to not return phone calls. It is not okay to be late and disrespect another persons time. It is not okay, to engage in intimate relations without the sanctity of marriage. It is not okay to bully another by speaking harshly to them. It is not okay to fight with your spouse when no one else can hear you. It is not okay to emotionally or physically abuse your children. It is not okay to let your children think the ways of the world are acceptable. It is not okay to accept what the world accepts as truth because we know that the only TRUTH is God’s way. It is not okay to settle for what everyone else does. It is not okay to eat a poor diet and abuse your body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not okay to leave a marriage because you don’t love your spouse anymore. Love is a decision! It is not okay to get drunk or take drugs behind closed doors. It is not okay to allow your children to spend time with ungodly people. It is not okay to be “yoked” with unbelievers. It is not okay to gossip, lie, cheat or steal. It is not okay to blame others. It is not okay to wallow in guilt and condemnation. It is not okay to text when you are driving. It is not okay to run up debt on your credit card that you cannot pay. It is not okay to think, speak or act in a way that would cause Jesus to weep. All these seemingly unimportant little things are the tiny steps the enemy uses to take you away from Jesus. God’s truth is ‘you reap what you sow’. Each time you choose to step away from God’s direction for your life, there will be consequences, just as Moonshadow found out. It is okay to set boundaries to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit’s counsel and guidance requires time and effort on your part. Studying His Word, spending time with those who are more mature in the Lord, Hearing His voice and obeying it, fasting and prayer are all tools to keep you near God. It is not okay to walk away from the protection and love of your God. You need Him in your life at every step. We are living in tough times and, like Moonshadow, I hope you learn how to fight the evil one and take the authority that Jesus has already given you through His resurrection at the cross. If God has called you to him, He wants you to stay near Him. And sometimes, God will ‘nip’ you in the haunches to get your attention. The wonderful thing about Jesus is His grace and mercy to forgive us each time we come back to Him. He will always love you. There is nothing so wrong in His eyes that can’t be forgiven if you repent and turn away from it. Yes Moonshadow gave up the freedom of interacting with the rest of the herd, but he gained the power of the Alpha. He knew where the safest place was to have a blessed life, DO YOU?

Trish & Athena at the Cross

Recommended reading…. Victory in Spiritual Warfare by Tony Evans…..

We at Story Book Meadows love you and pray that this story helps you seek your true leader. And believe me, I am right there with you, constantly stepping away and wondering why life is so hard. God says in the bible “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. That is TRUTH. If you’ve not yet joined up with Jesus, there will never be a better time than NOW! Learn how to live in the shelter of the Most High God and receive the Blessings He has waiting for you.

Blessings, Trish

A Moment in Time

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

As I wake each morning and rise to start the day, my first steps are to the kitchen to let the five Jack Russells and Seth, the Doberman, out the door. They could be sound asleep, but in moments, they are jumping for joy and racing out the door to greet a new morning. I grab a snack bar and head out to feed the horses with the dogs gleefully running out of the yard in search of squirrels to chase up the trees. They battle each other to see who can get to the squirrels first. Their thoughts are on nothing more than what fun the new day is bringing into their lives. I laugh out loud over this silly routine which is exactly the same every morning whether it’s raining or sunny, warm or cold.

I smile as Chief and Rose greet me with whinnies in the pasture right beside the house. They are joined by Sasha and Timber as I head to the shed to get the golf cart and their feed. The sun is coming over the trees in Central Florida, as another gorgeous day is gifted to us from the Lord above.

I dump the feed into the bins on the fence and let the horses into their pens amongst their quiet nickers as they continue to tell me how happy they are to see me. Each horse gets a rub and a scratch as they move past me into their pens and they enthusiastically dive into the feed. I get back on the golf cart joining Seth who has claimed the passenger seat and head towards the back of the farm to feed the rest of the horses.

As I approach Hollywood, our grey stallion, I am in awe of his strength and beauty, watching him gallop along the fence line beside me, racing the golf cart to his outdoor shelter where he eats. He throws out a couple of bucks just to let me know he thinks he’s in charge. He is the loudest in singing out to me. His joy is so contagious I feel my heart swell with happiness and love for this moment of praise and thankfulness that I receive from all of those who are in my care.

My last stop is the back field where the quarter horses are pastured. I see them standing at attention from a distance watching me. Their anticipation of my arrival is shown in their body language. Their heads are high and their stance is alert as I approach. Then they relax knowing that my cart holds what they are waiting for; their grain. As they walk casually to their pens they start their chorus of nickering and whinnying telling me how happy they are that I’ve finally arrived. I dump the grain into their buckets and let them into their pens and the munching begins. There is nothing quite like the sounds of horses contently chewing on their food. To this farm girl, it is more comforting than any other sound in the world. It’s a time when you know that everything is right in their world, at least for that moment in time.

As I sit on the golf cart with two dogs on my lap and the other four sniffing around the trees, I realized that this must be how our God feels each morning when we, His children rise with praise and thanksgiving on our lips. He must smile when he hears us singing to Him in glorious song early at the start of each day. I’m sure it brings Him endless joy to see His children with happy hearts excited to greet the new blessings He is ready to bestow on us each morning. His mercy is new each day and He has given us the grace to do what we need to do for His glory and purpose. It is up to us to grab hold of those blessings and embrace them. Sometimes we let the complications of our daily lives interfere with the simple joy of just being alive. In our hurry to get everything done, we forget to enjoy each moment as it unfolds. We forget that He is always with us and His Spirit allows us to live in freedom from any and all of our problems. Though Satan will try to steal our joy with negative thoughts each morning, we need to hold on to His promises and trust Him, just as the horses trust me to arrive with their feed. My animals remind me each morning of the simple things that I am grateful for, and I thank Him for each one. We are all winners in this game of life when we remember to live humbly and simply.

There was a message to me from the ranch this morning. It was a message about gratitude and praise!

Lost Dogs

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Last week I learned some very important life lessons from the ranch. I’d like to share them with you.

I’ve always prided myself on taking all the precautions and going above and beyond what most people would do to keep our animals safe on our property. Yes you could say type A, perfectionist and obsessive about their safety. I spent thousands of dollars when we built this farm five years ago to put non-climb wire with a board on top around the entire perimeter of our 50 acre ranch. And for the last few years I lived in this place of knowing our dogs could not escape this large yard I had created for them. They loved to run, chase squirrels and whatever else crossed their paths. I felt secure in my little bubble that they were safe. Well that bubble burst with a loud pop last Tuesday morning when some animal in our woods ran and all five of our little black and white Jack Russells ran after the critter. The animal had dug a hole under the wire fence and it knew to run out that escape hole. Unfortunately, the dogs were right on it’s tail and ran through the escape hole right after it. As I hurried after them calling (more like screaming) at the top of my lungs, I could hear their yips as they ran deeper into the woods hot on the trail of whatever they were chasing. Jack Russells are hunters after all, but of my five, really only two of them were authentic at it. The others just followed the pack. As I stood at the fence calling and calling with no result, Seth (the doberman who is way too big to go under the fence) and I could no longer hear them. I went from annoyed to angry pretty quickly. It was about 10 am and I had just lost all of my little dogs.

I had lost these same five a few weeks ago in the same manner when they went under the fence chasing four deer. They had all returned about 30 minutes apart within a total of 2 hours. So at this point, I was predicting their staggered return and although I was concerned, I wasn’t panicking.

About 30 minutes later, Sheba showed up and ran to me all happy and very dirty. I had no idea where she had come from since I was still standing near the hole they’d gone out and she hadn’t come back in that way. Obviously there was more than one hole they were coming in and out from. I took her and Seth to the wash rack and gave them both a bath. While I was doing that, Zoe arrived back at the barn with blood all over her. I brought her into the wash rack and bathed her looking for the source of the blood. It was easy to determine as the blood poured out of a tear in her ear. I tried bandaging it but that didn’t work and eventually it did stop bleeding. Her ear was split in two. After I put those three into their yard, I went back out to the race track where our woods start and continued to yell and honk the golf cart horn trying to help them find their way home. With hundreds of acres of woods behind us, I knew there was a good chance they could get lost or hurt out there. After about another hour of that with no results, I had to leave to go to the feed store. I left the field gate open hoping they would return on their own.

When I returned from buying feed, Tyler was back at the yard gate. I hoped that Candy and Puddles would be close behind. I was getting worried because they were not hunters and I wasn’t sure they would find their way home. Candy, after all, had done this before since she was lost when I adopted her as a stray 8 years ago. As the hours passed with no sight of them, I started to drive around the block every hour to see if they had come out of the woods anywhere. Still there was no sight of them. I ran off fliers and dropped one in each mail box of those on our street so anyone seeing the dogs would know where they lived. By dark I was panicked. My little dogs did not know how to spend the night in the woods. There were coyotes, wild hogs, bobcats and who knows what else. I was thankful at least that it wasn’t to be a cold night. Gary and I prayed continuously and I sent our prayer request to all those I knew. I looked at the two empty beds where they slept each night and I felt very sad, like a piece of me was missing.

As I lay in bed that night I thought about families whose children have been lost or stolen. I wondered how they could bear it. Although these two are only dogs, they are my family and we love them. I have never had children and my animals have filled that void. How much worse would it be to not know where your child is. To imagine all the horrors that they could encounter out on their own. I realized I had thought I was keeping them safe with my fencing and protected environment but I also had to admit, I had seen a few holes over the last few weeks but had not taken the steps to fill them in and maintain the ‘fortress’. I had gotten lazy about protecting them. I had just figured they wouldn’t go out the holes because they don’t dig. I had forgotten about the influence of the world outside their yard. There had been a warning to me when they had escaped chasing the deer a few weeks ago but I had ignored that warning. I thought about how many times in our lives we try to keep our children, our animals, our lives safe but we don’t always take the necessary steps to do just that. We find it easier to just go along with what everyone else is doing instead of listening to our own intuition and the voice of God. I’d been warned to take the necessary steps for their safety, but I hadn’t listened. And now, I was feeling guilty, scared and worried. I loved them both but Puddles was my favorite. I was feeling guilty because I was thinking if only Puddles would come home, I’d be okay with that. It was a long and restless night.

In the morning, I looked outside hopeful that I would see two little dogs waiting by the yard, but they weren’t there. We attached fliers to the STOP signs on all the roads around our property. I started cruising the roads again. I put fliers in all the feed stores, HITS, and the Kwik King’s. I headed to the pound to give them a picture of the two and give them their micro chip numbers so if anyone turned them in they could call me immediately. As I drove down Hwy. 27 my phone rang. It was Gary. “Do you believe in miracles?” he asked me. “Absolutely”, I answered.

“Puddles is home!” he informed me, “I came out of the house and there she was sitting at the gate to the yard”. I cannot describe the overwhelming joy I felt. Tears started pouring down my face as I thanked God for being so merciful. I had begged Him to show Puddles the way home. She had survived one night in the forest and had found her way back home. I was sure Candy would be close behind her but I continued onto the pound to report her still missing just in case. As I toured the pound and looked into the faces of all those hopeful dogs I felt so bad that their owners didn’t want them or hadn’t come to claim them. Candy was not there and she had not been reported as found. On my way home, I placed more fliers in feed stores, tack stores and Publix, hoping someone would pick her up, see a flier and call me.

When I got home I was so excited to see Puddles. She seemed a little distant and disoriented but was happy to be back. She gave kisses and rolled over looking for my love. I wondered when I had started taking these guys for granted. I wondered when I’d started to live so much in the future and all my grand plans that I’d stopped appreciating each moment I shared with them. I wondered when I had stopped living every moment to the fullest and enjoying the here and now with each of them and the horses and my husband. Now is really all we can ever be sure of. I finally understood that life could change in a moment and that we should live in such a way that there are no regrets. God has given us this moment and we never know what will come next. As I make my plans, God directs my steps. Finally, I understood how to truly appreciate each and every moment of my life. I knew I should call my elderly parents more often. I needed to stay in phone contact with friends and other family. In this day of texting and emails everything has become so impersonal. But any moment could be the last one you have to spend with a loved one. I wondered if Candy knew I loved her.

Just after feeding that Wednesday night I got a phone call from a person down the road. He told me he’d seen Candy at 5:30 that morning on someone’s lawn near his home. Even though it was twelve hours later, I jumped in the truck and headed to where he’d seen her and called and called but she was nowhere to be found. I drove back home in the dark not knowing if someone had picked her up or if she had gone back into the woods still trying to make her way home. She was obviously disoriented and lost. I realized that by keeping them in my protected bubble I had not prepared them for life outside their yard. They didn’t know how to find their way home. I decided then that I would start taking them for walks down the road and around the neighborhood so they would learn how to find their way home if this ever happened again. I think it was the not knowing that was so disturbing. Had Candy been picked up and was enjoying herself in someone’s home? Was she still lost in the woods and trying to find her way back? Was she lying dead somewhere in the woods? We kept praying for her safety and health and return. So many people were praying for her that I knew God was listening. But fear was in my heart.

By Thursday morning and still no Candy my optimism was starting to waiver. I had canceled all visitors to the ranch. The other dogs were restricted to the yard while we worked on boarding up all the holes around the 50 acre perimeter. Something that should have been done weeks ago. I couldn’t help thinking it was like “shutting the barn door after the horse had run out”. I was equally begging God for her safe return and praising Him for bringing her home. I wanted to harden my heart and tell myself I didn’t care what happened to her just so the pain and fear would stop. I had posted fliers everywhere, called the pound and the Humane Society and I didn’t know what else I could do. Then around 4pm I received a phone call. My heart jumped with hope. But the lady who called just informed me that she had seen Candy on the side of the road in the same area as the other man at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon. She was heading to the HITS show and had wondered why she was out there all alone. I asked her why she didn’t pick her up and her reply was she didn’t want to get attached to any more animals. I understood her emotions but I wondered why someone seeing a lost little dog wouldn’t pick her up to keep her safe and take her to the pound. Any owner having lost a dog will always check the pound first. But the lady had left her there and when she returned two hours later she said she didn’t see her again. This time I took the golf cart around the neighborhood honking the horn hoping she was still hiding in the bushes somewhere. I got calls from people who offered to come out and help me search. It was so amazing the kindness of strangers when I asked them to keep an eye out for her. As I drove around I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 18:12-13 “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish”. If I could never give up on finding Candy, how much more determination does God have to save all of those who are lost? I gained a totally new perspective on the urgency of helping those who are lost to see the light. But darkness came again and still we had not found Candy.

I will admit by Friday morning I was filled with fear. Candy, it seemed wasn’t coming home. I was finally in that place, where as they say “the rubber meets the road” in my faith. My heart said God was big enough to do this and “All things are possible”. But my head was telling me after four days, the chances of her coming home were slim. I had done everything that I could and now it was up to God. I happened to watch Creflo Dollar that morning on TV as he talked about fear. He taught that when you have fear about one area of your life it is because you’ve stopped believing God for that area of your life. I had to think for a moment about why I was feeling so fearful. I did believe God could bring Candy home after all that was easy for Him, but the fear was because there was a question in my heart, “Did I truly believe God would do this for me?” This was what was causing the fear. I immediately prayed to stop the torment of the enemy on my mind and the fear lifted. I told God I did believe He would do this for me and I knew in order to move this mountain, I had to truly believe in my heart…….and so I did. I meditated for the rest of the day on scripture Mark 11:22-24 “if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Friday evening just after feeding as it was getting dark, my cell phone rang. “I think I have your dog” said the voice at the other end of the line. I started to cry from the relief and joy of her words. She gave me directions, Gary and I drove the five miles to their home and I held my breath as we got out of the truck. In her arms was my sweet Candy. As I took her into my arms, she covered my face in kisses. She too seemed disoriented and shocked but she was so happy to be back with her mom. The couple told us the story of how Candy came to be with them. She had traveled down our road to the far end about two miles. When their grandson had gotten off the school bus on Wednesday afternoon, Candy had followed him home but it was on the intersecting road and we had not put fliers down that road. I had not imagined she would have gone so far. Candy had then been taken to the grandmother’s home. When she had driven back over to see her daughter and was returning home, she finally saw the flier I had put on the stop sign at 115th and CR 326. That was Friday night and she’d called me right away. So in truth, Candy had only spent one night in the woods and had been well looked after since then. We brought her home, removed a couple of ticks, gave her a bath since she was full of fleas and watched her reunite with her children. (She is the mother of the other four JR dogs we have).

Candy & Puddles

Once our little family was safe again in the house that night, we knelt down and thanked God for bringing her safely home. And in my heart I felt a soft voice asking me “Why did you doubt Me?” I knew that this lesson from our ranch would stay with me whenever other storms headed our way in the future.

The next morning, I started teaching myself how to stay “present” in each moment and to enjoy the day as it unfolded and to praise God for it! I had learned that the safety of my world was only by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus. And I learned that all the ‘head knowledge’ I had from sitting in church each week was not the faith that the bible speaks of. I learned that my personal relationship with Jesus and my ‘heart knowledge’ is really what makes the difference. God hears our prayers and if you really believe in your heart, without doubt, He will move mountains.

Blessings to all from our family,
Gary & Trish
Candy, Puddles, Tyler, Zoe, Sheba, Seth