“We use our horses to share God’s word,” said Cathy Childers, founder and executive director of Mounted Ministries.
Mounted Ministries is a Christian outreach based in Pickens that assists children with disabilities or behavioral issues.
“We’ve gone to orphanages, group homes, and churches,” Childers said. “And everywhere we go we’ll take the horses with us and do some
type of training demonstration.”
Those demonstrations allow Childers and Mounted Ministries staff to “teach God’s word through the language of the horse,” she said.
The demonstrations show the children the relationship of trust between the horse and its rider and illustrate the need to trust God and God’s work in your life.
“The young horse has to learn how to be submissive to its rider, to its handler, in a similar way we have to be submissive to Jesus Christ,” she said.
“In that respect, so we can a closer relationship with our horse and also with Jesus Christ.”
“Each aspect of training the horse I also tie in with some sort of life application using God’s word,” she continued.
The creation of Mounted Ministries has “been in the work since 2001,” Childers said.
“I knew God wanted me to have some type of ministry sharing his word through horses but I didn’t incorporate until February of 2009.”
“I’ve been sharing God’s word since 2001,” she continued. “I’ve written summer camp programs for other barns, where they could share the word through their horseback riding program and through teaching lessons. But I didn’t really make it official until 2009.”
The ministry has applied for tax-exempt status, and is awaiting is 501c3 designation, she said.
The reactions of the children to the horses are varied, Childers said.
“It depends on the person,” she said. “Some people are more fearful than others. Some people have had more damage done to them, so it takes them maybe longer to warm up to the handling of a horse.
“And some others take right to it,” she said.
“Irrespective (of that), it builds their
self-esteem. It helps them to build healthy relationships. It helps them with communication, forming trust. All of this transpires through being around the horse.
“The horses reflect how we feel,” Childers continued. “They sort of mirror that. They’re really good at reading body language. That’s how horses communicate with other horses. It tells a lot about the person — and how they feel about themselves — by watching a horse respond to that individual.
“The same horse will respond differently to different children, different adults,” Childers said.
A simple exercise like picking up a horse’s hoof could result in a number of different reactions from the horse, Childers said.
“You could have 10 people with that same exercise and that horse is going to respond to differently to each person,” she said.
“Even that horse has done it a million times, it all depends on how confident, how comfortable that individual is in trusting that animal.”
If the person doesn’t feel comfortable around the animal, the horse isn’t going to feel comfortable giving up one of its appendages, “which is used in nature to flee from predators,” Childers said.
“It’s a really important issue for a horse to have all four feet on the ground, and it takes some doing to ask them to give you one of those,” she said.
“It’s a nice exercise for trust.”
The training demonstrations are also a chance for kids to have some fun as well, through hands-on experience with the horses or riding opportunities, Childers said.
Mounted Ministries offers a summer day camp for children — the Hallelujah Horse Camp.
“We’re now in our third year,” she said.
Horseback riding, “horsey” arts-n-crafts, games, training skills, horse care, daily devotions, mini-trail rides and even a fun show with prizes will be awarded at the end of the week.
Childers said the Holy Spirit prompted her to have the ministry give children more hands-on time with the horses.
“Rather than just going someplace for an hour and seeing a child for a short period of time,” she said.
“This is an opportunity where the children can build more of a relationship with the horse. I can build more of a relationship with that child.”
Childers calls horse camps “a great summer activity for kids and a great experience for them.”
It also gives children another opportunity to learn about Jesus, she said.
“It was easy to put the two together,” Childers said.
A certified riding instructor, Childers has over 30 years in the equine industry and is currently completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Clemson University.
This year’s camp began on June 21, and will run from 9 a.m. — 3 p.m. for six weeks, Childers said.
Horse camp is the ideal program for beginners with limited horse experience as well as the more advanced rider.
Beginners will learn skills in riding different equine disciplines, horse care, and related equipment as well as recognizing God through practical life lessons taught through the language of a horse.
Additionally, advanced-beginners to intermediate riders will learn more advanced riding maneuvers.
The daily schedule includes hands-on practice, horse back riding each day, fun games, “horsey” arts-n-crafts and a Christ-centered riding experience all included in the daily 6 hour schedule.
Weekly classes are kept to a maximum of 6 children/youth which will then be divided into two smaller groups based on age and experience level.
Cost per camper is $250.00/week which includes a suitable, age appropriate and skilled horse, saddle, helmet and all the necessary equipment/instruction from a responsible, loving, and caring Christ-centered volunteer.
Campers are to bring their own lunch/drink except on Friday when Mounted Ministries will provide a BBQ with hot dogs and cold drinks served in the 80-year old restored barn.
Camp location is at the Porter House Farm. Highway 178 north from Main Street Pickens to Porter Road.
Turn right on Porter Road. Arena and barn will then be seen on the left.
If you would like to help Mounted Ministries with its mission, there are a number of volunteer opportunities for those interested in assisting.
“We need people that can help with either volunteering their time around the barn, supervising a child that’s doing its activity with a horse,” Childers said.
“They can help with mailers and newsletters, telling other people about us, just getting involved.”
The organization maintains a wish-list of items it needs for those who would like to donate.
Monetary or in-kind donations can be sent to Mounted Ministries, 251 E. Preston McDaniel Road, Pickens, SC, 29671.
The organization is also seeking board members to serve in the future, Childers said.
Childers will be establishing a Mounted Ministries web site at www.mountedministries.org that should be up and running by summer’s end.
For more information, or to volunteer with Mounted Ministries, call Childers at 864-752-5142.