United Thank Offering

UTO Grants in Action

February 7, 2023
United Thank Offering

By the Rev. Ellen Huber, Diocese of South Dakota, 2022 UTO Grant Recipient

Each month in our newsletter for coordinators we share a story from a grant site, thanks to our reporting processes. In 2023, we are going to share an additional story here to help tell the stories of where your thank offerings have gone and the impact that they have. We’ll also share how to get involved or support a project that might be of interest to you. This month, we’re sharing the story of a 2022 grant to the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota about their horse camp. They are inviting you to join this February in support of building the indoor arena as a way to share some love.

Images of Valentine’s Day. You know them. Red hearts galore, candy boxes in every store, finding the perfect card, snacking on the little candy hearts with love messages on them, being in line at the grocery behind a young person awkwardly holding a bouquet of roses, and, if you are a parent, finding the right pack of cards for your kids to take to school for the Valentine’s party. Images of St. Valentine’s little cupids flying around and silently shooting arrows of love into unsuspecting hearts are everywhere, and Hallmark movies with happy endings are in abundance. Of course, life is much more multifaceted than that, but on this day our hearts yearn for perfect love, understanding, and to be honest, the perfect bite of chocolate. 

If you look out over the pastures at Black Horse Ranch on the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, you will see a different kind of cupid. Possibly just as chubby as any cupid, but with coats of fur, and soft brown eyes. A collection of horses and ponies are poised, waiting to pierce the heart of an unsuspecting visitor with an arrow of love and compassion and understanding. These cupids do not fly around looking for a heart to fill with love; they wait. Patient. Present. Aware. Ready to receive whatever is presented to them and to reflect back the wholeness and love that a visitor may not see in themselves. The arrows from these cupids lodge deep, spreading healing and acceptance. Many who come to Black Horse Ranch to work or visit or be involved in one of the many programs have a history of broken promises, a history of being less-than, a history that is plagued with addiction and poverty, with historical, generational, and present-day trauma. The cupids scattered throughout the pasture sense all of this and also know the rest of the story, giving back in the arrows they shoot the hope, the perfection, the joy, the wholeness of each person. 

Black Horse Ranch is an extension of the ministry of the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission. Residents of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation experience unprecedented rates of poverty, addiction, and suicide. Through equine wellness programs, Black Horse Ranch is partnering with the local community to uplift and restore Lakota Horse Culture to aid in healing, and repair trust. Only two years in the making, the ranch offers an equine wellness program that provides Equine Facilitated Learning to individuals, families, and groups, including those in recovery; a horsemanship program that offers a summer horse-and-pony camp; and the Center for Equine Meditation, which welcomes groups for a retreat focused on Equine Facilitated Learning and Lakota Horse Culture. As a new ministry, the infrastructure and implementation of these programs is in an active growth stage of raising sustainable funds and ongoing program development. 

Summer 2022 was our first summer horse-and-pony camp, and we quickly learned the need for an indoor riding arena to shelter kids and horses when the temperatures soar over 100 degrees! Equally important in the winter when temps dive below negative 20 with the windchill reaching minus 50. We are incredibly grateful to the United Thank Offering, which awarded this ministry a generous grant of $99,000 toward this almost $200,000 project, including a storage space for hay. We have discovered that trying to buy hay every two to four weeks in the winter is not only costly and weather-dependent but brings us into competition with cattle ranchers and a dwindling resource. 

People who come here are those who seek healing, those who seek to walk alongside, those who come to seek something perhaps undefined, those who come to learn, those who come to share, but most importantly, those who come to feel whole. Perhaps you will come. To walk the pastures of Black Horse Ranch is to enter a place where we strive to “walk humbly, share joyously, listen carefully and practice love in all things and at all times.” We sincerely invite you to join us. 

We also deeply welcome your support! To give to the barn-raising or make a one-time or recurring sustainable donation toward hay, feed, hoof care, programming, and more, please go to: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=VPBUDF6GVRDNN.

Check us out at: https://www.facebook.com/BlackHorseRanchEB

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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