Wide angle view of the Wildfire Ranch stables.

Retreat Testimonials

Wildfire Ranch Spiritual Retreat provides guests with variety of experiences during their time with us. We love hearing about their experiences and wanted to share a few of them with you:

Sooooo. As I suspected, because I know myself and how God speaks to me, it continues to unfold. I woke up smelling the horses this morning and hearing them eating in the pasture (curiously the sound of their chewing is a remarkably calming sound for me which makes me laugh given our conversation about how crunching sounds drive you wild!) - and I think I was dreaming about brushing one of them.

When I was in the pasture with Ariel that 2nd evening, she instructed me to see which horses I gravitated towards or gravitated towards me. Jerusalem, your magnificent Friesian, was really hanging around, very present. I trusted Ariel's interpretation that Jerusalem was rare, majestic, a coveted breed who did not yet know her own worth and capabilities. I trusted sweet, young 17 year old Ariel when she joyfully exclaimed " You are like Jerusalem; you are set-apart but do not yet know your own worth.

The next morning in the barn when we were grooming, you, Cynthia, told me about Jerusalem's bout with colic. You were describing how Jerusalem was only 9 months old and was dying in front of your eyes from this disease that twists a horses intestines. The vet did everything, even put a tube in her nostril that went the entire way down to her stomach. After several hours the vet said 'I'm sorry Cynthia that it had to be your Friesian. She is not going to make it through the night". And I was stunned when you told me that you looked at the vet and the dozen random people standing around watching and you said, 'If God takes her then it was my privilege to have a Friesian in the first place. But if God wants her to live, nothing in this world will stop Him from saving her'. And the next morning she stood up, pooped 3 buckets of diarrhea and was miraculously fine. This is when I knew for certain God was speaking through you, Ariel and Jerusalem.

When I was 23, I made a near fatal suicide attempt. I wasn't joking around. My oldest child, Susan was 2 years old. I almost died and had a true experience of being enveloped in light. It has always concerned me that this did not change me completely as you would think it should. Anyway, they put an NG tube in (like Jerusalem) and told my then husband " she will not make it through the night." Exact words. When I did, they transferred me to a psychiatric hospital, a very very good one with gifted therapists.

Cynthia, you had me do something called 'Join-up' with Jerusalem. Very powerful. I am not schizophrenic by any means, but I do know that there are parts of me that kind of check out or go under cover ( or under the covers:) when I am triggered. I have recently been totally triggered by my son's behavior towards me - mocking, condemning, shunning, judging. And coming from him especially who used the be the light of my world, it is huge black hole of pain that I fall into. I lose my grounding, my bearings. It is a sort of PTS reaction, fright.flight/freeze. Walking around the ring with Jerusalem being relatively relaxed and staying close, feeling the power of her next to me I had the very physical experience I asked for before we met. The very real presence of Jerusalem joining with me, shoulder to shoulder would be the new ground for me when I have that flight/fight/freeze reaction.One of the meditations I read recently said " this is a time for alignment of right relationship with yourself." The joining experience made that a tangible, physical experience that became a part of me.

I was, as you could see, anxious and not so confident riding on Promise, your Kentucky Mountain horse on my last day there Sunday. I was trying to look for insight into that dynamic, I heard what you said about facing my fears and I understood that but it still wasn't clicking. That's because it wasn't about Promise. It was, of course, about Jerusalem.

In your kitchen before I left, I was asking you and Ariel about what was going on with Jerusalem in the ring during an exercise session. And then Ariel said it, she was being "collected." The word went straight to my heart like a light beam. It was the reason I ended up at your ranch. You, Cynthia, wearing your trainer hat, said that "being collected" was a very advanced concept in horse riding. I sort of smiled to myself because even when you are not wearing your therapy hat, God is still speaking through you and your horses. You made the motion of a horse being all crazy and out of control and needing to be collected. When I am having a PTS reaction, I feel exactly that physical out of control feeling. UNSAFE in myself, unsafe everywhere. I have been feeling it for many weeks even though you did not see it in me because I was not feeling it at Wildfire.

This morning when I woke up back home in my daily life in Philadelphia, I am not kidding that I smelled the horses. And something clicked even deeper. I was thinking about that arrogant lady, Trudy, that you allowed to ride Jerusalem on the trail ride. I was thinking about her being so cocky about what she knew about horses. Arrogant enough to light up a cigarette when she was riding her as if she had the right. And I was thinking about Jerusalem's reaction. Kind of like Promise with me on Sunday, Jerusalem could tell that this lady was not in control, did not know as much as she claimed. Jerusalem did not feel collected and I liken that to my feeling of being unsafe when I do not feel contained. And it hit me like a ton of bricks this morning, that Trudy is sort of like my kids. They know a lot and can have an arrogant, patronizing attitude towards me like they know it all. But they are NOT capable of being MY rider. They do not know what they think they do and I am not safe when they have the reins of my life. I have let them have the reins always, especially my daughter, because of guilt and shame I carried about the suicide attempt and hospitalization. This is a revelatory moment for me.

And then......... I picture Ariel riding Jerusalem on Sunday. Talking to her gently with love, praise, direction. Ariel is completely dedicated and focused on Jerusalem. And Jerusalem responds in kind. She feels safe and walks/trots/canters around the ring of her life with confidence and grace, Because her rider truly loves her. It is beautiful because it is the two of them together.

Do you see? I have let my kids have the reins of my life for 20 years. They have been sitting deep in the saddle, telling me what they know about me and who I am. I have felt more and more and more unsafe.

But now, I see it so clearly, God needs to be in my saddle for real. My ONLY rider. And the vision of Him loving me, talking to me, collecting me and rejoicing in my success exactly as I watched Ariel do with Jerusalem on a Sunday morning in February, 2017 - that is a vision I will cherish as Gods healing for the rest of my life.

All these pieces have been life changing, a (not so still) voice of God made undeniably clear. I cannot thank you both enough. Wildfire Ranch changed my life forever.

Katherine Markle, Philadelphia, PA

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