She continues to this day to intern at the place where she found the ultimate comfort in her darkest moments and holds two cherished memories close to her heart – one with a little girl and the other with a horse named “Redemption.”
Abigail’s father was baptized and mentored by one of the founders of Refuge Ranch Ministries in Rochester, Illinois. Because of that connection, Abigail started visiting the ranch when she was 5 years old, and instantly fell in love with the horses that serve primarily at-risk children. These horses are rescued from mistreatment, and the first one Abigail approached was “Redemption” with the executive director, Chris Daniels, by her side.
“He had been obviously neglected,” Abigail said of the horse. “I remember his skin was sunburnt and he shied away from people. Chris told me that by opening my hand too much the horse would think of when he was struck. That really broke my heart, and so I went up to him as slow and careful as I could. He was gentle and let me touch his nose, and then he nuzzled my jacket. I was so happy he trusted me. It was a moment I realized how you treat someone impacts how they trust you.”
Abigail went on to discover God’s healing methods through the relationships between horses and people. For the past few years in her internship with the ranch, she witnessed children with special needs connect to the horses as well as grownup rape victims. But one of the most touching moments happened last summer with a little girl who had experienced bullying at school.
“She got on a horse and she lit up with confidence,” Abigail said. “I could relate to her because when everything was going wrong for me, that’s where I found a comfort zone – on the back of a horse. She was so excited and comfortable. She trusted the horse and knew he wouldn’t hurt her. The ranch was founded on the idea that hope rises from brokenness and chaos. It finds its way through broken situations and you wonder how God will use something devastating and turn it into something beautiful. I’ve learned you can’t do it on your own. We can’t even breathe without God. How you interact with people impacts how they want to be heard. If you try too fast and hard, they won’t trust you because you’ll remind them of something that hurt them. God is always the one who will save them. We’re just here to point toward Him.”
To watch Abigail’s entire story, click here.
Abigail Fitzgibbons is from Springfield, Illinois.