Monday, November 10, 2014


By Jean Oman, Co-Founder

What a gift God gave to mankind when He created the equine.  We could never begin to repay these amazing creatures for the multitude of ways they have served us for millennia.

When Star arrived at Cypress Swamp Ranch Jaxson’s Place, his future was uncertain.  The handsome quarter horse had belonged to a young girl whose parents purchased him for her so that she could competitively ride him and both could bond, learn to work and play together.  There are few things on earth more beautiful than a girl and her horse, working together in harmony! 

Along the journey, Star had been sent off to a “professional” trainer who was supposed to teach him how to improve in several types of riding styles, including dressage and western.  He was a very smart horse and a sensitive one as well.  His greatest desire was to please his young rider, but as horses are, he was quite independent-spirited and sometimes stubborn when he did not want to do something.  It seemed like the best thing to do to send him to an expert who could guide and bring out his highest potential. 

Horses have to know that they are being respected in order to give respect in return, interacting with humans in much the same way that we expect to be treated by one another.  This is why they are such great teachers when parents need a model for child rearing, because there are so many parallels.  When mistreated physically, they become rebellious and noncompliant, even angry, scared and possibly dangerous, as the “fight or flight” instincts placed in them by their Creator, automatically kick in.  This “professional” used brute force on Star, effectively shutting down any learning ability this horse might display.  Sounds a lot like the reaction of a child, when a parent or teacher attempts to instruct them in a harsh manner, doesn’t it? 

After a dangerous episode when the trainer was thrown off Star, he became enraged, demanding that Star’s owners take him back immediately.  The advice given for Star’s future was, “send him to the glue factory – he is worthless – a piece of garbage!”

What are parents to do when an expert says something like this about a beloved pet?  How do you tell your daughter who is in love with this horse that he has now been determined to be “worthless” and, in fact, dangerous.  Doc and Sue definitely would not let their daughter get back in the saddle, now that Star had proven that he would not let anyone ride him.  He actually shook with fear when a saddle was placed on his back, or he was approached with a training stick or rope.  Is it true that when a horse reaches this point, he is not “fixable?”  Delaney was distraught, because she loved her horse deeply, and could not bear the thought of any harm coming to this sensitive and kind animal with a huge, albeit now fearful heart. 

A desperate plea went out among Doc’s colleagues, seeking any advice about what to do with Star, hoping that someone could help.  A rumble of concern ran through the co-workers, including concern about Delaney, her love for her horse, as well as for her safety, should she decide to ignore the “expert” and attempt to continue to ride Star.  On the flipside, what could be done for this poor animal, who, through no fault of his own, had ended up in this potentially fatal situation?  Was there a solution, or was putting him down the only answer?

God truly works in mysterious ways, His wonders to display.  As word traveled through the hospital where Doc worked, one of the nurses shared a ray of hope.  Though she had never been to Cypress Swamp Ranch Jaxson’s Place, she knew of this Ranch, and suggested to the worried parents that perhaps Star could be sent to CSRJP to live out his days, rather than being sentenced to death at the “glue factory.” 

Many people view horse rescue organizations like ours, as a place for unwanted animals to be put out to pasture, never to be ridden again.    Many do indeed provide sanctuary for animals who are no longer able to be used for riding or work, allowing them to live out their days in comfort and safety.  When CSRJP is directly asked to adopt a horse, we take the request very seriously, because the primary purpose for this Ranch is to help hurting human hearts  through the healed horses who live here.  We must consider our resources, because from an economic standpoint, this is another “mouth to feed” and required care is expensive.  Up to this point, we have not been a “rest stop” for animals to pass through to another destination, but CSRJP has been the final home for those who have had to fear for their lives or the possibility of being abandoned.  We cannot take in every animal which people request us to, and we must consider how each would fit into our program as well as the dynamics of the entire herd.  We do pray fervently over the fate of each animal that comes our way, especially those we feel God is leading us to add into our “family” here. 

Doc and I had a lengthy conversation during which I asked him (begged really!) – if CSRJP could board Star for a few months, at no cost to them, and allow John to work his natural horsemanship miracles here.  Doc and Sue now had little if any trust in trainers, after having sent Star to someone who had been so highly recommended, and experiencing such a terrible outcome.  They had no desire for a repeat experience or worse.  It was completely understandable.

I heard myself promising Doc that John and I would come visit Star at their home to evaluate him.  Were those words actually coming out of my mouth?  There was no explanation why, because John and I had some months earlier decided that we absolutely could not add to the number of horses here in the foreseeable future – a decision to which our Board heartily agreed.  The funds we were personally contributing to the Ranch operation each month were overwhelming as it was.  Still, there was that compelling belief in our hearts that we needed to at least go meet him and kiss his sweet nose, before his possibly mortal fate was decided. 

John took a rope halter, lead rope and carrot stick along on that visit, not even sure if he would be able to touch or get near this horse.  Star was definitely scared, but compliant, and although afraid of anything resembling a “stick,” he quickly realized that he could trust this gentle stranger who did not offer to hit him with it, but merely used it as an extension of his arm.  After working with Star for a brief time, we both had the quiet assurance that he would be coming to CSRJP to live.  We told the parents that we would take Star from them on one condition; Delaney must come to visit him as often as she could.  The family eagerly agreed to this condition, and arrangements were made for him to be delivered to the Ranch.

After his arrival, John worked with Star almost daily for several months, using a firm but gentle hand of love, language and leadership.  At first, Star was clearly afraid and skittish.  He refused to allow any weight to be placed on his back.  If a blanket or saddle was put on, it was immediately bucked off with his eyes ablaze in anger and fear.  John began to give Star “hugs” across his back, which were initially met with mistrust and stepping away.  As time went by, Star realized that he was safe and it was his decision to accept that contact, briefly at first, then for longer periods of time.  We were seeing progress and hope, fueled by mutual respect and trust.

Jada was a regular visitor to the Ranch, and had formed an instant bond with Star.  He always looked forward to her visits, and knew that when she was here, she would pet and talk softly to him.  This frightened animal was truly beginning to believe in love again. 

When asked, Jada bravely agreed that she would attempt to sit on Star, at the ready to immediately dismount if there was any sign of trouble.  To everyone’s amazement, at that first session, Star, although very afraid at first, allowed her to sit on him and to be led around the Ranch!  This was done on several occasions, never making him feel like he was being pushed into doing something he did not want to do.  Before long, Star would let anyone ride him, thanks to the gentleness that Jada demonstrated to him. 

Doc, Sue and Delaney, had indeed come to the Ranch to visit Star.  The family was relieved that he was happy and doing so well.  He had work to do (very important to a horse), not what they had originally planned for him to be doing, but he was now working with children and adults who needed to experience the restoration of healing and trust of their own.  Star had not lost his life, nor had he been cast out as worthless.  He was valued and worthy and was teaching this lesson to people who had formerly felt that way about themselves!  This warmed their hearts!

Fast-forward to November 2, 2013, the 2nd Annual CSRJP Fall Celebration.  Star had been here at the Ranch for about 15 months and had safely been ridden by many individuals for about a year.  175 people attended the Fall Celebration that day.  Sue and Delaney were here as volunteers.  Six of the Ranch horses, including Star, had been saddled up, to give “pony rides.”* Sue became aware of a young girl who wanted to ride a horse but was obviously very scared to do so.  After all, they are very large animals!  Sue listened to God’s prompting in her spirit, and asked Samantha if she would like to ride Star.  Shaking, Samantha said that she really wanted to ride, but she was very afraid.  At first she was too terrified to sit on the saddle, and it took some coaxing to get her to put on a helmet and climb the steps of the mounting block.  After some time and patience, Samantha eventually did saddle-up and was led around on Star’s back.  This was miraculous on several different levels!  Star, who had just a short time earlier been unrideable, was now being ridden, led by the mother of the girl who had to give him up, because she was told that her own daughter would be thrown off and injured if she rode this horse.  This is where the healing of horse and human heart truly began! 

As the Fall Celebration time drew to a close, Samantha would ride no other horse but Star, and would not be assisted by anyone else but Sue!  Samantha’s family marveled at the transformation they saw taking place in their own child, as Sue and Delaney were awestruck at how gentle and patient Star was with this formerly terrified child, who was now developing a huge confidence of her own – all four of them were!  God was sharing a huge miracle and the bigger picture was just beginning to unfold!

We have verbally shared the story of that experience over the past year with countless people.  In our small minds, we did not think that Star’s story could get any more amazing.  Question - why do I limit God in my mind?  I do believe that He can do anything.  He was about to explode on the scene to make that fact abundantly clear to me and everyone present! 

Fast forward again - 3rd Fall Celebration, September 27, 2014.  It had been two years and one month after Star’s re-homing to CSRJP.  We were blessed to meet a precious young college-aged lady named Sara, who was wheelchair-bound.  Sweet Sara was brought to the Fall Celebration by our mutual friends and frequent Ranch volunteers, Ashley and Brandon.  They wanted to share the Ranch with Sara, and knew that she would enjoy being outside in the fresh air, to see the crafts, vendors, and maybe even pet the horses. 202 guests were moving around to the food, crafts, and games, some grooming the miniature horses and others standing in line to ride the big horses.  Sara was enjoying the time, as her devoted friends wheeled her from place to place on the Ranch, and friendly faces shared the day with her.  Her smile, beauty and grace was contagious!  Yet, no one even thought about asking her if she would like to ride one of the big horses.  How small-minded we all were.  Except one, who was listening to God’s prompting in his heart…

The Fall Celebration was winding down.  Vendors were packing up their booths, getting into their vehicles and leaving the Ranch.  The DJ was still playing festive music, but everything was taking on a tone of completion.  I was doing my best to talk to everyone I could, on an individual basis, about the Ranch, our purpose here and what I know that God desires to do in this place.  All the while, I wondered if those who had come here really got it about the mission and ministry of CSRJP.  I could feel my mouth moving, and could hear words coming out, but did I really know what I was talking about?  I was just about to be humbled to the core…

Sue came over to me and quietly asked if she could draw me away for a few minutes to the round pen in order to witness an event that was about to unfold.  I knew that for her to politely call me out of my conversation, it had to be important, so I walked the short distance to the round pen with her.  I was not prepared for what I saw taking place.

Her husband, Doc, was lifting Sara onto Star’s back – side-saddle style.  He had asked her if she would like to ride a horse, and he just happened to have the perfect steed in mind!  Sara had been outfitted with the required riding helmet and was making final adjustments for her comfort in the saddle.  Delaney was patiently waiting at Star’s head with the lead rope, as her Dad and Samantha’s Dad, Ray, gently lifted and held Sara in the saddle as they entered the round pen for her ride.  The smiles inside the round pen and the flowing tears of joy outside, from those who witnessed this miracle, cannot be adequately described, but I assure you that we have pictures to prove it!

Life takes twists and turns that lead us down paths we would never choose for ourselves.  I am so thankful that God has higher and greater plans and that His ways are not my ways.  He sees so much more than I do with my short range, tunnel vision.

My God, how awesome YOU are.  Your ways are so amazing and great.  We cannot begin to understand!   Thank You for your incredible blessings of restoration, teaching us how to trust again, and using what appear to our eyes to be broken and worthless things for Your very best and highest purposes.  We are honored and blessed when you use us as vessels of Your power and love.  You are truly an AWESOME God…  I am humbled and grateful, and my heart is touched forever.  Yes, you boldly remind me again and again why CSRJP is here.  My prayer is that you continue to use Star and every member of the herd, as well as each human helper at CSRJP for Your honor and glory, always.  AMEN!

*Our mission and ministry at CSRJP is to pair a horse and human together for an amazing horse experience at each visit.  Every encounter includes one guest, one horse and one staff/volunteer member.  The CSRJP horses are free thinkers and not as some at other stables used solely for “pony rides.”  These precious animals, have become dull because of the same routine they are subjected to, over and over.  (This could be changed!)  We do provide said “pony rides” during large events, with limitations, to give exposure for CSRJP to the public, and the opportunity for people to meet and get acquainted with our individual horses.  The regular practice here is to teach one-on-one natural horsemanship, which includes interaction between horse and human, typically on the ground.  After a number of sessions together, the horse and guest are usually ready for horseback riding, if they both desire, and upon our careful evaluation on an individual basis.  Each person is at a different level of horse experience, learning and desire.  Our horse connections range from the tiniest, brand new guest, to the savviest horseperson – from petting a horse to free riding and everything in-between.  We encourage guests to come regularly in order to form a bond and connection to our horses, and who respect the love and care we have for each animal here.  We believe that God has placed something amazing in each horse which heals hurting human hearts, which, upon introspection, each person has.  We want to share the love and unconditional acceptance that our horses give to us with all who come here.  Guests are welcome at the Ranch, by appointment, free of charge.  We gratefully accept donations from anyone who believes in our ministry.  It keeps grain in the buckets and hay in the barn, and provides for the medical requirements of each equine.  Every gift is tax deductible through our 501(c)3 status, 100% of donations go to horse care.  Receipts are gratefully given for each gift.  Volunteers who desire to help with work projects are always welcome.  We pray for God to bless each one who shares in the ministry of Cypress Swamp Ranch Jaxson’s Place in every way.  <><

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why Did the Chicken Fly the Coop?

Why Did the Chicken Fly the Coop?
By Jean Oman, Co-Founder

We’ve only had chickens at Cypress Swamp Ranch for a short time, just a few months, actually.  John grew up with them on his parents’ farm, but we didn’t plan to have chickens here – let me explain.  Our Ranch is known in the neighborhood for its lack of squirrels, rabbits, chickens, outside cats, and other creatures.  In fact, as you travel down the gravel and dirt roads that bring you to our gate, you see all those creatures and more, in abundance.  However, as soon as you cross the Ranch property line, there is a marked absence.  Instead, you are typically greeted by a variety of overly-friendly dogs – Labradors, Retrievers, a Shepherd, and some Heinz 57 mixes.  You will see some cardinals in the trees, an occasional woodpecker, and maybe a few brave Florida herons or storks in the far pond, but never close to the house, or within sight of the many places where the dogs choose to lie down, watching... 

My cousin’s son built a chicken coop last year out of pallets.  We were very proud of him and impressed with his creativity, as he gave us a “tour” of his project.  He told us of his dream to expand the coop into an entire enclosure.  His mother’s organic garden could be contained inside, free from insects, thanks to the chickens’ God-given desire to feast on them!  We marveled at his ingenuity.  When told that additional manpower was needed to execute his building plan, we enthusiastically volunteered to help.  All the while, we were thinking how impressed we were with the family’s growing self-sustainability and wondered if we should be considering the same.

A few weeks later we drove up to the Georgia home-place, where my Mother was born and raised, and many of her family still live.  It is always so beautiful there, and we are always blessed when we have the chance to return for a visit.  Before we knew it, work began, and the chicken “run” took shape.  Fencing enclosed a large rectangular area, including the coop, with plenty of room for the organic vegetable garden.  We could hardly believe our eyes!  The chickens would be safe, and the vegetables wouldn’t be eaten by pests!

On the trip home to Florida we began to talk about having a chicken coop of our own.  After all, the neighbors had free-range chickens.  We had to remind ourselves that they didn’t have the terrier-mix breed dogs that we have, who would never allow that.  However, if we could build a coop that would keep the dogs out, would that work?  The seed of planning had been planted…

Within weeks, we purchased two brand new chicken coops, ready for assembly; all that was needed were some residents.  One bright spring morning shortly after, we woke up to a rooster crowing – he was in one of our coops, along with two hens!  The neighbor caught three of their free-range chickens and gifted them to us.  That same day we put up a small electric fenced area to keep the dogs out.  After a visit to the feed store, we brought home six baby hens to live and grow in the other coop.  Our chicken adventure had begun!

Weeks passed.  The formerly enthusiastic, salivating dogs had lost interest in the chickens, after getting “popped” by the electric fence a time or two, and appeared to have given up.  The two mature hens were gracious to give us eggs approximately every other day.  The baby chicks grew to full size and it would just be a matter of time before they joined in on the egg-laying. 

We knew that we probably needed to enclose the bottom of the coops with some strong metal mesh, but so far hadn’t felt an urgent need to do so.  We moved the coops every few days so that the chickens could peck on the grass (which they completely destroyed in those areas!) and they seemed to really enjoy the fact that the coops were flush with the ground.  We kept the thought of cottonmouth snakes, foxes and other predators in the backs of our minds, but didn’t worry too much.

After hearing how two different moccasins had successfully entered our cousin’s fortified coop and destroyed two of their chickens, along with numerous eggs, we decided we’d better shore-up our own coops right away.  We came up with a plan, and off I headed to the hardware store to buy supplies, as work began on the first coop to reinforce it.  John had successfully removed the not so baby chickens into a large dog crate, and although squawking, they seemed secure there.  When I returned with the strongest, yet smallest metal mesh I could find, we decided to complete the first coop and then start on the second one for the mature chickens. 

All was going according to plan, but you know the saying, “The best laid plans…”  We were capturing the mature chickens to put them in the dog crate, as we shored-up their coop, but one of the hens found a small opening and took off like a shot.  This chicken had been free-range before coming to live in our “coop.”  We watched as she flew and ran across the pasture with wings flapping.  She didn’t know what to do with her new-found freedom, as she flew, ran and squawked like a maniac.  She decided the horses were not the best companions for her, continued to fly and run all over the other areas, and finally settled-in, pecking peacefully next to the coop she had known all these past months, just outside and inches away from her former companions; however, she was no longer within the shelter of its protection.

We tried everything we could think of and had numerous suggestions from people and internet sites on how to catch that slippery bird.  When she was originally caught and brought here, she had been “trapped” in a dog crate, enticed by the food inside.  She wouldn’t go near the one we put out this time, even with tasty morsels deeply inside.  We tried locking her former companions up into their “roost” during the night and keeping the bottom of the coop open so she could join them.  After sticking one foot in, she decided that she didn’t like the feel of the new mesh on her very dainty and particular feet, so off she went again.  

We watched this pretty little hen, trying to outwit and outplay her to no avail.  Many clever ideas to capture her were used – things we thought would appeal to her appetites and passions.  Yet, she apparently had a much stronger desire to be “free,” out where she was clueless about her vulnerability to the predators whose sole desire was to bring her down.  The rooster and other hen continued crowing at her from inside, but she decided not to rejoin them.

As several days passed by, we marveled at how the dogs were ignoring her.  All were within reach with their high speed legs and fast jaws.  Many times they could have snatched her up, yet they continued to put on innocent faces, even sleeping for hours.  I even became fooled by their act, thinking that they didn’t care anymore.   Maybe all her bluff and bluster with the squawking and flapping wings had made them feel as we did, that there was never any hope of getting her back into safety again, and she would remain on her own.  The instinct of caution was leaving us all and consciences were “searing over.”

The parallels to humanity became mind-boggling.  How many young people are determined, far too early, to leave the “coop” of good families and parental safety, solely desiring the “freedom” they believe they will find outside.  They are not ready or equipped to make it on their own and are not mature or knowledgeable about the dangers of the world.  It takes guidance and wisdom before one is ready to build that safe “coop” of their own.  Youngsters decide every day that they don’t like the confines they have to live in, with rules, including chores, clean rooms, food and safety that are there to protect them.  Instead, they crave what they perceive is freedom, and go out into the slavery of danger that the glittering world tempts them with, only to find that they are living in the muck and mire of the pig sty.

We continued to try to catch Miss Hen.  At one point she became so determined to escape us, that she decided to fly off across the grass toward the trees.  This bravado was her fatal mistake, because those sleeping dogs had not been ignoring her at all.  They had been silently communicating with each other and waiting for her to make a judgment error.  They clearly knew that they probably had one chance only.  Within split seconds of her flight, they were after her in a finely-arranged takedown and capture.  There wasn’t anything we helpless humans could do to save her.  We stood by, watching her destruction.  Our hearts ached as we wanted to cry out, “We tried to point you to safety so many times, but you ignored us!” 

It is important to note that the dogs did not do anything they were not created to do with their strong instincts.  Just moments before, they had been playing with the children here on the Ranch, as they always gently and tenderly do.  There is no “taste of blood” or “now they have killed” issues that freak ignorant people out these days.  I’ve seen one of our retriever-mix dogs do it many times with rats.  She doesn’t want to eat them, she just knows they don’t belong here, and takes care of it.  Cats will do the same.

None of the dogs were interested in eating their prey.  Instead, her lifeless body was left on the grass, tossed aside as though she had never existed, as they went back to their regular spots to sleep.  I couldn’t help but see the human parallel and how Satan sets out to destroy his “prey.”  When it is over, and he can do no more destruction, he walks away with his nose up in the air with not a drop of pity or sorrow.  See also countless drug overdoses and suicides…

Over the many years of my life, I’ve been asked why I trust God with my heart, soul and life, and why I have chosen to live in the “coop,” that He created.  Surely I must have missed out on the fun of the world all these years.  Don’t think for a moment that those desires have not been there from time to time.  Temptation comes to everyone.  It is what we do with it that makes the difference. Yes, I am grateful for the “Coop” of his protection and love which has saved me from many disasters.

Others ask me, “Why would a loving God allow suffering, cancer, accidents, starvation, abuse, evil and death.”  It is truth and most important to understand that He didn’t cause any of these things to happen, nor were any of them His master plan or desire.  We silly human chickens decided that instead of staying in the safety of the coop, aka Garden of Eden, we could be like God by an act of disobedience (eating the forbidden fruit = flying out of the coop door) and running the show all by ourselves.  Weren’t we so smart!

God doesn’t want any puppets in His Kingdom – He only wants those who want to be with Him.  With a broken heart, He had to let us go and His greatest desire has been our return to Him ever since.  He made the way over 2,000 years ago when He gave His perfect and only Son to die for our sins, in order to bring us back into the “coop” with Him, to live safely and happily under His protection.

Conditions in this earthly roost are not always exactly the way we desire them to be.  We have to deal with things that we don’t like, like financial problems, unruly children, disagreeable spouse, or other less than perfect conditions (a mesh floor).  There are so many things outside the coop that tempt and call to us.  The worst part of life in God’s coop is watching those outside, who have chosen to live in places where they could quickly be destroyed forever, but refuse to come into the safety and protection.

However, those of us who are inside KNOW that we are safe, forever, and no evil predators can ever reach, touch or destroy us.  Yes, we will make mistakes and still do sinful things.  However, one day that “coop” of our human flesh will open up, and those who are His children will be released to be in the freedom of His everlasting love, never to fear the defeated predator Satan or his attacks, ever again.   How perfect and beautiful everything will be as we will live in the Light of our Lord Jesus!

As Job so eloquently said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!”  Job 19:25-27.  

YES – it is going to happen!  “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”  Romans 14:11.  That is the dividing point of life for every heart.  Either you can’t wait for that day to come, or you are dreading it and don’t want to think about it.  The Creator promises that it is coming.  Get into that “Coop” of His love while you are here, and don’t live out in the world where you are unprotected.  You will be eternally glad that you did!

Monday, July 28, 2014

HotRod, Jimmy and the Passion Play


These were such happy days of jumping, scampering and running across the pasture and then back again.  Mommy and her yummy, ever-present milk was never far away from his nuzzling nose and ever-hungry tummy.  His long legs didn’t have a care in this brand new world, which smelled of fresh green grass and hay.  What a wonderful place to live, this Planet Earth!

Carefree days passed into weeks and months.  HotRod’s appetite grew and he tasted of hay and some grain which were delicious.  He enjoyed closeness with his Mommy, but found that he was romping the pasture more and more and venturing farther away from her to make new friends with the equines in the pasture. 

Months and years passed, with too many experiences to remember.  On one bright Florida day, his food bucket was in a different place than usual.  He wondered why his dinner was in the horse trailer.  As he jumped inside and began to eat the tasty morsels, he heard the door shut and latch behind him and realized he was trapped!  His Mommy brayed to him from outside the trailer and he brayed back to her.  Once in the past, a donkey had talked to a man.  Oh how he wanted to tell his human that this was NOT acceptable and he wanted to be back in the pasture with his Mommy, but he realized that with only his donkey voice, no one would listen.  He hung his large head, too big for his body, and his ears, which were even bigger, were as low as they could go.  What was happening to him?

Suddenly the trailer began to move.  It didn’t go very far.  The door opened, and he thought he was free!  But no – all he could see was the inside of another horse trailer, with strangers inside!  They put a halter on his head with a lead rope, and led him over the divide into that other trailer, then shut and latched that door behind him.   A very long ride began, a smooth road and then a big freeway with loud trucks, cars and motorcycles everywhere.  After some hours, the trailer made a sharp right turn, driving over what felt like the roughest road ever.  Where was he being taken?  And where was his Mommy?!  He sure wanted to be next to her where he knew that everything would be all right.

The trailer finally stopped and the door opened.  He jumped out onto a green, velvety lawn, but that didn’t make him happy.  He just wanted his Mommy and she was nowhere in sight.  He called to her but there was no answer.  Instead he was met by the stares and whinnies of horses – strange ones that he had never seen before.  He didn’t see a donkey like himself anywhere.  What was this place?  HotRod was suddenly very homesick, and his big ears drooped again, as his big eyes closed with sadness.

He was placed into a corral by himself (as all newcomers to the Ranch are).  He could see the big horses across the fence in the large pasture and they were staring at him and he was staring back.  HotRod began to wonder – would he be able to run with them one day?  How about that large black horse who watched him from afar?  He really missed his Mommy and wondered if she was missing him too.  It was a very hard thing to be taken away from her. 

Every day, the new humans would come out many times to brush his coat and to give him treats, speaking to him softly and telling him that he was going to enjoy his new home.  It helped the lonely times pass, gave him something to look forward to, and he was comforted.

After a few days went by, one of the big horses was brought in to visit him.  That made his head perk up.  Star seemed especially excited to be in the corral and HotRod had to wonder why he couldn’t get away from him for even a moment.  However, it was nice to have a friend again and his head and ears were spending more time up than down in the droopy position.  Something in his heart told him that Star was as lonely as he was and that the two of them together would comfort each other.  They ate together, took turns sleeping and watching each other, and played together, quickly becoming very best friends.  HotRod found himself smiling again, and the longing thoughts of his Mommy began to happen less frequently. 

The humans decided to let Star and HotRod out into the pasture with the big herd of horses.  That large black horse who had been watching him from across the pasture, came running up.  Star, even though much smaller than Midnight, was very bold and made it clear to the much larger horse, that HotRod was “his” donkey and he was going to protect him at any cost.  HotRod, being a donkey, even though small, knew that God had created him to be very capable of taking care of himself.  He did have a very brave heart, but had to admit that it nice to have a good friend to be with.  It didn’t take too long before Star realized that he didn’t have to worry about HotRod, and their friendship ran deep and true, no matter who else in the herd came up to befriend him.

Days and weeks of grazing in green pastures with all the new friends ran into one another.   There was never any tension, just peace and contentment.  He loved it when they all would run in a big herd around the pasture, and even with his shorter legs, he didn’t have any trouble keeping up with even the fastest horses. 

After some months, another donkey arrived to live on the Ranch.  His name was Jimmy, and he was much lighter colored than HotRod, and the cross on his back was very bright.  Jimmy had belonged to the neighbor in the next pasture, so both donkeys, even though they had never really been together, had been able to watch each other through the fence, and felt like they already knew each other.  Jimmy was really friendly and the two donkeys had fun braying back and forth at each other.  Star welcomed Jimmy into the friendship, and the three were never far away from each other. 

Many times people would come to the Ranch who seemed to be lonely or hurt.  HotRod felt so sad when they would get out of their cars.  He saw their heads hanging low and remembered how sad he felt when he first came to the Ranch too, and his head felt like it would never be lifted again.  He felt so light and happy now and he wanted them to feel that way too.  He had realized that his Creator loved and cared for him and had put him in this special place so that he could be safe and so that he could show people that they were loved and could be secure too. 

One day a young girl came to the Ranch.  She hopped out of the car, then jumped back in, grabbed a cowgirl hat and plopped it on her head before closing the car door.  Was she going to come over to see him?  He sure hoped so!  He loved to meet new people and to feel their warm hands petting his soft nose.  Yes – she was walking his direction!  His friend Jimmy came up behind him and brayed softly.  She was going to pet them both.  How fun!  As the three met in the catch-pen, the lovely young girl sat down on a log.  Both donkeys leaned their heads down to her and she began to hug them both very close, first one and then another.  Were those tears flowing down her cheeks?  Yes, they were.  She was crying!  His thoughts went back to the time when he felt so lonely and he wondered if she was missing her Mommy too.  The thought made him nuzzle her cheek with his soft nose.  All he wanted to do was to let her know that it would be alright and he prayed that God would comfort her heart as she brushed and talked to them both.  The girl sat on the log for a long time with the two donkeys leaning in close, as she had one arm around each of them.  HotRod knew at that very moment why he was created and what his purpose was.  This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him!  God had a plan for his life and it was right here on this very Ranch!

One day, their human seemed to be taking many more pictures of them than usual.  HotRod was used to having pictures taken and knew they would be put on social media along with an amusing story about what they had been doing that day, but this seemed different.  She was taking lots of pictures of them with the crosses on their backs.  Yes, Resurrection Day was coming – that must be it.  Both HotRod and Jimmy were put into a corral by themselves, without their ever-present buddy Star.  They were fed by themselves and put into the trailer every evening.  The boom box accompanied their time in the trailer, playing the same song over and over.  It was a beautiful song about how Jesus was riding a donkey into Jerusalem and the people were shouting “Hosanna!”  That sounded like the best fun a donkey could ever have!  How blessed that chosen donkey had to have been to carry the Son of God on his back, into the Holy City.  He hoped to meet that donkey one day and to hear every detail about that wonderful experience!

One day, the humans put both HotRod and Jimmy into the trailer, but this time it was different.  The trailer was hooked-up to a truck, and before he knew it, they were riding on that bumpy road again.  Where were they going this time?  At least they were together.  They both hoped they would return home to be with Star, who called to them as they rode farther away from the Ranch.  Still, they weren’t sure what to expect, or if they would ever see their beloved horse friends again.

Suddenly, what sights and sounds hit their senses!  From the bumpy dirt road, they had turned onto a nice smooth road, then a very busy freeway with big trucks and fast cars zooming by.  There were lights and stops, and people walking by.  When the trailer finally came to a stop a short while later, they looked outside and realized they were in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, Florida.  Everything was almost too much for two country donkeys to take in!

People came over and peered into the trailer.  They were exclaiming, “Look – there are donkeys in here!”  After a little while, Jimmy was let out of the trailer onto the sidewalk by the big church.  Strange-looking characters bustled around – everyone was in such different clothing, even their very own humans were in costume.  Men and women were wearing long gowns with sashes around their waists and scarves on their heads, and they all had big smiles on their faces.  HotRod stayed in the trailer as they led Jimmy out.  They told HotRod that they would bring Jimmy back in just a few minutes.  He would have to wait to find out where Jimmy was going and what he was going to be doing.  Cameras and phones were snapping pictures of them on every side – whatever it was looked like it would be fun!

As Jimmy was led to the doorway of the church, HotRod strained his neck to see.  Oh how he wished he was taller so he could see over the partition in the trailer!  There were yet more people dressed in the funny clothing with grins, and they were encouraging Jimmy to enter into the building.  The purple horse blanket was put on Jimmy’s back, and HotRod could see that the people were holding palm branches in their hands.  Didn’t those fronds looked delicious?  He heard his tummy rumble, knowing that he hadn’t eaten since dinner last night.  What was it the humans had said – the donkeys couldn’t eat or drink for a little while because they shouldn’t pee or poop when they were inside the special place?  He licked his lips and realized how hungry and thirsty he was, and grew anxious for his people to make good on that promise of delicious food and clean water that he was accustomed to having!  What a great life he had, and that realization gave him great comfort.

As HotRod continued to watch from across the street, he watched the crowd suddenly part the way for a man – obviously a very special man, who was receiving all the attention.  Who could he be?  As he kept looking, he saw the man sit on Jimmy’s back and they disappeared through the door into the building.

As he had been promised, it was only a few minutes and Jimmy returned to the horse trailer.  He jumped back in so fast, it seemed like he had seen a ghost!  What on earth had happened to scare him so much?  HotRod was going to have to wait to find out, because before he could even ask Jimmy about his experience, HotRod was taken out of the trailer with the promise that he would be back in just a few minutes himself.   Apparently he was about to find out!

HotRod was taken across the street to the same doorway through which he had seen Jimmy disappear, with that same man on his back.  He sure wished he could have had just a minute to ask Jimmy about what to expect in there and most importantly, who that man was. 

Suddenly HotRod heard music – the same song the two donkeys had heard played at home on the boombox, as they had eaten their dinner together in the trailer these past few weeks.  This time there were people dancing with bright lights everywhere he looked.  He too had that special man on his back.  The load seemed very light, and he realized that the men on each side were helping to hold up the one who was on his back.  That was so nice!  (Donkeys can only carry 1/3 of their weight, and most don’t weigh more than 300-400 pounds).  HotRod knew he was not a big donkey, and realized that since Jimmy was larger, it explained why his turn had been first).  HotRod appreciated that extra help and wondered if they had also helped Jimmy with the load. 

As HotRod’s own human led him into the church and down the aisle, he was not afraid, because he trusted his humans.  He knew that he had been loved and gently cared-for over the past 16 or so months that he had lived with them, and that there was nothing to fear, as long as both his people were with him.  A number of children who visited the Ranch had safely ridden on his back, but this was the first time he’d had an adult human on his back – they had not asked that of him at the Ranch.  There was something different about this – very different.   This special man was very important – could it be?...

As HotRod walked down the aisle the music got louder, much louder than it had ever been at home.  The lights were even brighter, the longer he walked, and there was a crowd of people pressing in on him on every side, waving palm branches, clothes and shouting, “JESUS is coming, JESUS is coming!”  Whaaat?  He had JESUS on his back?!  So THAT is Who the special Man was.  WOW!!!!

How many times had he wondered how it must have felt for that chosen donkey to carry the Son of God on his back, down the hill from Bethany on the Mount of Olives, through the Garden of Gethsemane, the Kidron Valley, and then up the path into God’s Temple in Jerusalem.  This was so exciting!  He realized in his heart that this was not really Jesus on his back, but it was so much fun to pretend, and how blessed he felt to realize that he had been chosen to be the donkey for “Jesus” to ride in the Passion Play at church.  What an important part of the worship.

HotRod was told that he needed to be a very good donkey for every performance, and his role in the Play was a very serious one.  He decided that he would be the very best donkey that he could be, which wasn’t always easy to do.  He finally understood why his tummy had been rumbling and realized that dinner would be waiting for him very soon.  That knowledge made him very happy.  Having a full tummy is very important to a little donkey!

He proudly marched all the way down the long aisle to the platform, and then back out of the church, through the doorway through which he had entered.  He returned to the trailer, and could barely catch his breath.  Yes – he made it without a single pee or poop!  He told Jimmy about all that had happened.  Jimmy told him that he was so excited for him and he knew how wonderful it had been.  Jimmy, being a young donkey, had made it as far as he could down the aisle, but got scared by the bright lights and all the people.  He knew the song very well too, and was so happy to carry “Jesus” on his back for a little while, but he had “frozen” in his tracks partway down the aisle, and just couldn’t move.  Everyone told him that it was okay and maybe he could try it again next year.   That made him feel better, and he was very happy for his best friend, who wasn’t scared at all.

Meanwhile, he too had a very important job to do for the rest of the week, as he would stand outside the church, inviting people to come inside, and would be the donkey that people could take pictures with on their cameras and phones to post on Facebook or take home to show their friends and family.  He was so relieved.  HotRod said that he was excited to perform in the church, so much so that he could barely keep from running down the aisle.  What a team! 

Yes, it was a lot of work, and yet so much fun to take both donkeys down to church for five additional performances that week.  After the final performance of the Passion Play on Easter evening, both donkeys were brought home and let out to pasture to be with their very happy horse friends, who had missed them all week.  Of course Star and Midnight were most happy to be together with them again.  It appeared that they and the rest of the herd, received “blow-by-blow” descriptions of the entire week’s experiences when all were reunited again.  If you have never witnessed equine reunions, they are something to behold!

HotRod took about one week to fully wind down from the excitement.  He spent quite a few hours in the shed with his face in the back corner.  It looked like he was deep in thought and human attempts to pet him were met with far away stares.  Just as people have those pinnacle moments when our hearts soar and we participate in events that make us supremely happy, it was clear that HotRod had been excited about his divinely-appointed “job” depicting the chosen ride of the Son of God as He entered Jerusalem on the back of the lowly donkey.  He had much to contemplate and to “come down” from.  He knew that the real experience had to have been overwhelming, as donkeys are the smallest and most humble of all equines.  Just to think that the Creator of the Universe chose one of his own relatives to participate in this event of supreme joy and celebration was overwhelming!  It was definitely going to take some time for HotRod to “digest” the enormity of his role in the Play and to go back to just being a relaxed, donkey on the Ranch, again.

HotRod did indeed come “back” to the daily routine and his sweet smile returned.  He soon remembered his highly important job here at the Ranch.  As divinely-ordered as being in the Passion Play was, viewed by tens of thousands of people, over the week, HotRod and Jimmy, as well as the rest of the horse herd, do have daily roles that are just as important as the one performed by that colt in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago.  HotRod and Jimmy, as well as the rest of the Ranch equines, have been clearly chosen by the same Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of the Universe, to share the love of God with every person who comes to Cypress Swamp Ranch Jaxson’s Place.  And they know it! 

The most important mission of this Ranch is to share God’s love with every human heart who comes here, through the unconditional love they receive through the equines of CSRJP.   Every horse and donkey “staff member” was divinely brought to this Ranch.  Some were donated, because owners were no longer able to care for their physical needs, due to the economy or for other reasons.  Each horse and donkey here is filled with love and special care for those with hurting hearts, because of their own special needs and desires.  Each has his or her own story to tell to those who come to visit.  Since they too have had deep needs and longings, they are especially drawn to people who come here, sharing compassion and comfort with them in this dedicated place.

Cypress Swamp Ranch Jaxson’s Place is open to everyone of all ages, for horse encounters, ranging from the desire to see a horse in person, to those who wish to handle horses by petting, grooming, learning natural horsemanship on ground or in saddle, or to gain experience in all horse-related skills.  This is not a place for “pony rides” as many riding stables typically provide for a fee, but instead exists to tailor the individual needs of our guests. 

CSRJP provides specific horse encounters by appointment only, (see our website for scheduling information).  Each “encounter” is approximately 90 minutes in length and free of charge, although donations of any amount are gratefully accepted.  100% of all monetary gifts received go solely to the feeding, physical needs and care of the equine staff and are tax-deductible through the 501(c)3 status of CSRJP.

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Postscript:  The Legend of the Donkeys’ Cross and Leg Stripes
The donkey colt, who proudly carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, came to see his Lord and Creator as He hung on the cross of Calvary, outside the city wall.  The little equine wished he had been able to bear the burden of carrying that huge cross for his Lord, because everyone knows that donkeys are typically laden with loads – often more than they should carry.  The colt was broken-hearted and unable to continue to gaze at his Creator, Who was broken and bleeding for the sins of mankind.  He had to turn his back in grief.  Yet, he was unable to tear himself away from Golgotha, because he loved Jesus so much.  As a reward of the donkey’s humility, love and service, the King of Kings caused the shadow of the holy Cross to fall across the donkey’s back as a reminder forever.  This beautiful tribute is a reminder to everyone who sees a donkey, that God’s rich love blesses every heart who accepts His sacrifice, with forgiveness of sins now, and an eternal Home in Heaven with Him, forever.  The beautiful stripes that grace the donkeys’ legs reputedly marked him as he walked through the myriad of palm branches laid in the path of the triumphal journey to the Temple, as the joyful crowd cried “Hosanna” to the King of King and Lord of Lords, JESUS!  Even so, COME Lord Jesus!