Alumni Profile • Nancy Martin Goodrich '88
Offering love, direction through horse therapy

Nancy Martin GoodrichWhen her husband died nine years ago, Nancy Martin Goodrich '88 promised him she would take up his visionary approach to life and pass it on to their two daughters, then 7 and 5. In the years that followed, "visions came and went," Goodrich said. Then three years ago she read the true story of Wild Horse Annie out loud to her girls, and a vision came to stay.

Not only did Annie Bronn Johnston lead a grassroots campaign to save the West's wild mustangs, she and her husband also brought children to their Nevada ranch for "horse therapy." "All three of us knew that was it," Goodrich recalled. "That was what we wanted to do for God."

At the time, Goodrich and her daughters, Ruthann and Rachel, didn't own a horse; none of them rode regularly, and they couldn't have horses where they lived. Incidental facts like those aren't obstacles for long, Goodrich has learned, if one's vision is also God's vision.

In June 2005 the family moved to a 23-acre farm in Hopkins, Mich., just south of Grand Rapids. By fall there were six horses in the barn and a new sign out front: Horse Haven Ranch Ministries. Then, in January 2006, through a partnership with Youth For Christ, they began to bring teenage girls from juvenile detention centers and group homes out for the Goodrich approach to horse therapy.

Twice a week, Goodrich drives 25 miles into Grand Rapids and brings up to three girls back to Horse Haven Ranch. There 17-year-old Ruthann is waiting for them in the barn. She gives the girls lessons in grooming the horses and riding, but only if they want to. Girls who don't want to ride but want to get out of the city and be around animals-Horse Haven is home to chickens, goats, cats and a dog, as well-are welcome. After riding and helping Ruthann with a few barn chores, the girls go into the house for a home-cooked supper that Nancy and 14-year-old Rachel have prepared and then a short Bible study.

While there have been as many as 16 girls involved in the program, Goodrich considers eight of them her core group. In small groups they sometimes sleep over at the ranch. For the ones keen on becoming better riders, Goodrich has formed a vaulting team-gymnastics on horses-and a 4-H Club, Horse Haven Riders.

Horse Haven Farm"These girls are looking for love and direction," Goodrich said. "They've been into all kinds of self-destructive behaviors, but they're wonderful girls and thrive on interaction with the horses and the special attention they get here. They need lots of love and prayer; their needs are so big."

Big, too, are the needs of a 23-acre ranch. Goodrich and her daughters tend to it around their homeschooling and the piano and voice lessons Nancy teaches for income. A small, dedicated circle of volunteers also helps, with everything from putting up fences to driving girls to and from the ranch.

All of it can seem overwhelming at times, Goodrich confessed. It keeps her, she said, on her knees, and soliciting the prayers of others, too. "We need prayers that God will keep us focused on what's essential, because the need, and the vision, is so huge."

To learn more about Horse Haven Ranch Ministries, including how to volunteer, e-mail horsehavenranchministries@yahoo.com.