Three sisters, three separate dreams, and God’s master plan

It started off with three separate dreams that were laid on three sisters hearts, each happened in its own way in God’s own timing.


Gayle’s Journey

I had been praying for many years for God to use me to make the world a better place. I then read the book by Kim Meeder called Hope Rising and knew then and there that this is what I wanted to do. I always enjoyed working with small kids and it also fitted right into my passion with horses, which I have had my whole life. In fact, we ran a horse stud at the time and still do today. What better way to serve God’s calling than to do the very thing you are passionate about. Around the same time my mom got my sisters and I together (as at the time we lived in different cities) she wanted to explain that we, in fact, had the same vision. Which was to work with children and horses. In the years following we started to move back to East London and in God’s timing the time was right to open iThemba Ranch. We were very privileged to attend Crystal peaks youth Ranch a couple of times over the years (where the book hope rising comes from) CPYR is in the U.S.A. Visiting there and meeting with Kim Meeder had a huge impact on our Ranch. It has been humbling and a great privilege to work with the children and horses, being used by God to change their lives for the better. We could fill a book with the stories of horses and children that would make you laugh, cry and empathize, but most of all leave you with that warm fuzzy feeling that the “starfish” are being helped, even if it is one at a time.


Vanessa’s Journey

My dream has always been to work with children and to help them feel loved. I love children and I love the Lord. To be loved and feel loved can change everything! Love can overcome all the negativity in your life. Our mother asked us one day if we realised that our dreams are all linked. My passion for children, Jami’s passion for wanting to combine horses and kids and Gayle’s passion for horses. It’s been a wonderful journey to travel. Finding out about Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch. Being able to visit and do courses with them. For iThemba Ranch, to be able to fall under their leadership and to be part of their similar ministries, and to be able to work with children. My true love. To see them change and grow. To watch them become more secure and see them realise that they have self-worth. To be able to often pray and ask the Lord for guidance with the kids and to follow His lead to help the children. To watch the Lord work through the horses and how so often the horses choose a child and how they often have similar stories and so are linked and work through their own pains, together. To know that iThemba Ranch is here to help children remember/find the Dream that God has placed on their hearts. To let them realise they can live their dreams!


Jami’s Journey

For me, it all started in grade 10 (2008) with a business project assigned to me. The topic was “Design a full business plan for your dream business one day”. I had recently finished reading one of Kim Meeder’s books from Crystal peaks based in Oregon which touched me so deeply and I had always had a passion for horses and children, but my biggest passion seemed to be helping those that were feeling unloved, neglected, mistreated or abused. Having this passion, coupled with me knowing how it feels to go in and out of therapists’ offices and scary environments where you are forced to share your deepest feelings in an uncomfortable and intimidating environment. I started to feel this burning fire within me to offer something where children could come, experience nature and the wonderful things horses can teach us, in a fun environment where sharing comes from choice and welcomed with the gentle forgiving hand of God, as well as a place for abused horses to rehabilitate and find a restful spirit. None the less, this is what I based my business project around; a non-profit organisation where children and horses could find hope. The business plan was handed back to me marked and I will never forget, written on it was “What a truly amazing idea, NEVER GIVE UP ON THIS.”

Our Mission And Vision

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide a safe haven embodying hope and encouragement to children and horses who feel unloved, neglected, mistreated or abused. While having a schedule we practice what it means to be liquid in the hands of God. True memories are often found in the unplanned moments between children and horses that inspire love, peace and self-acceptance.

Our Vision

That all who enter our safe haven will leave with a sense of peace, love and faith for a brighter future, a smile on their faces, a skip in their hearts and hope in their eyes. With Gods gracious hand, we seek to grow and expand in many areas.

Our Herd

The horses come to us from a range of different backgrounds from abuse and neglect as well as cases of abandonment but the cases we deal with the most are horses that are mistreated due to ignorance. .When a horse comes to us if often spends at least a year in big natural camps, living out in a herd. It is amazing the therapy that this alone does for the horse. We rely on sponsorship from the public to cover the monthly cost of these horses; by far this is our biggest cost.

Don Quixote – Mufasa

Known as “The General”, Don is a Thoroughbred cross Saddler gelding. For fun, we often give his mane a crew cut, like the soldiers in the army! He is one of our most trustworthy horses to ride and gives the best horse hugs! He is strong and solid while also being gentle and loving. He is a good reflection of the God above.

“Late one night in December 2000, as a little girl arriving home with my family, the lights of the car lit up a mare who had just laid on the grass to birth her foal. We stopped and went to help the mare. This was my first experience of the birthing of a foal. I got to help in the process of the birth of a colt that I had yet to know, would end up changing my life.

Every day as a little girl, I would go to play with Don Quixote in the fields and fall sleep with him in the long grass. He was a free-spirited colt and we found a bound so strong, a very special friendship. As we both grew older he became one of my strongest security blankets. He even went off to boarding school with me for two years! Whenever I was upset, insecure, or just missing home – I would run up to him, throw my arms around his neck and bury my nose into his chest and just breathed his scent in deeply. Instantly I would feel safe and warm and loved… I’d tack up and jump onto him and go for rides in the forest. Just the two of us. I would pour out all my worries and deepest thoughts. I knew he was listening closely as he spoke to my heart getting me through those hard time. Being on his back is a magical place where freedom and happiness are easy to find.” By Jami Haynes

Don was born and raised on Teddy farms along aside a little girl. They became the best of friends and she often found the security in him that she could not find elsewhere. He followed her where ever she went, even when she moved to a school hostel in a different town! Don is our solid rock in the stormy sea of life, he is the father figure of the herd with a soft gentle heart! Along the way, Don had a son called Spirit. Spirit grow up with his mother, however, when his father returned from school, they were both returned to Teddy Farms and reunited with one another and have been inseparable since! Spirit is a fun goofy horse and often has his audience in tears of laughter.

Spirit – Goofy

Known as “The Goof Ball”, Spirit is a Thoroughbred cross gelding. He has a fun loving nature and is generally easy going. We see him as our surfer boy because of his nature.

“On our return home to the farm, Don and I found his son, Spirit, just old enough to leave his mother and reunite with his father. Just as it had been with his father, Spirit and I formed a bond that started a very goofy and fun friendship. Spirit was such a fun loving horse. He would do the strangest of things that kept me in fits of giggles. But there was another side to him. One that is so gentle, loving and caring that you can’t help but let him into those tender places in your heart.

Both Don Quixote and Spirit where born and raised on Teddy Farms in East London. This was their home. Not only did I form close relationships with the two horses, but father and son had a very special bond of their own from the very beginning. They were inseparable. Watching them galloping over the hills is an awesome sight. Spirit, sticking so close to don. Letting his father lead the path to their next adventure.” By Jami Haynes

Just as Spirit always has his dad at his side, we also have our Father God at our side. Spirit often looks to Don for security and comfort especially when they go on an outride, because there are a lot of unknown things on an outride but spirit barely scares as long as he can follow Don’s footsteps. This is how we should live our lives, constantly looking to Father God to lead us, give us comfort, guidance and security.

Jack Sparrow – Sponge Bob

Jack got his name from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. He is a Nooitgedacht gelding and is an ex-show pony. He is a good example that God has a place for each one of us and that some of us, like Jack, are round pegs that people are trying to fit into spare holes.

Jack was bred and trained as a show pony but he was never happy in his school environment, he battled to cope with the hours and demanding work it took to be a show pony, all he wanted to do was play. He told the trainers in small ways and when they did not listen he developed behavioural issues. Eventually, the trainers could no longer work with him and he was pulled from the program.

iThemba Ranch approached them asking if we could try him in our program. Jack excelled in his job here, his friendly nature and gentle ways have helped many children. His favourite time is when the box of toys comes out. Just goes to show there is a place for all of us, each of us have gifts God has given us.

Prince – Eeyore


Prince is a Nooitgedacht gelding, he is owned by a special family who has let iThemba Ranch use him so that he is able to help other children just like he helped the children and adults in his family. 

Prince is a living example that our God performs miracles and answers prayers. At one stage, he was very sick with horse sickness; the vet came and looked at him. He was battling to breathe as his lungs filled with water and his head swelled up so badly his eyelids turned inside out, he could not move and could not see. The vet said he has never seen such a bad case of horse sickness in a horse that was still standing. He said there was nothing he could do to help Prince and he would be dead by the morning. Prince’s family refused to accept that and put their faith in God. They decided to take it in turns to pray throughout the night. The next morning Prince was… not only still alive but a lot stronger! Each day thereafter he got better and better until he was completely healed!

Prince has a special relationship with two little girls (well the one has grown bigger now) and I think that is why he has a soft spot for little girls and small children. Prince is a horse that loves water and painting!

Operetta – Fifi La Fume

“Retta” is a Nooitgedacht mare, she has a tragic story of trauma, losing her mom and being adopted by a human family. She was born on a farmland and before she could stand on her newborn wobbly foal legs, she was attacked by a pack of jackal dogs. Her mom fought long and bravely but there were too many dogs. The farmer and his family nursed her back to health which took many long months.

“Reta was attacked by jackal dogs on the day she was born. Her mom tried to fend the dogs off as they attacked her helpless foal but there were just too many dogs and they managed to damage her back leg and her throat.

To this day she still bears the scars and stiffness. Unfortunately, she had to be separated from her mom as her road to recovery was long and rocky. She was unable to nurse from her mom due to her damaged throat and had to be tube fed. She also battled a long fight with constant septicaemia from the dog bites to which the vets battled to find an antibiotic that would effectively cure the infection.

Growing up in the family yard with two little boys and a household of dogs while she received her treatment she became a member of the family. The youngest boy formed a special bond with Reta and the two became firm friends. The boy is now a teenager and has let iThemba Ranch use Reta. Because for all the love and fun Reta gave him, he would like to share this with other kids. Like old friends, the boy and horse still occasionally spend time together bareback and bridleless. Just a riding amble between friends.” By Gayle Flanegan

With love and devotion of her human family, she has grown into a secure and dependable pony. She is used today in iThemba Ranch not only to help children but also to help the new wild horses that come in that are scared of people.

Dress The Part – Pocahontas

Dress is a thoroughbred mare that comes off the tracks (At 17ha she is the biggest horse at iThemba Ranch). She was sold to a younger girl who did not know how to handle her. They used harsh bits in aid of trying to control her. They were feeding her high concentrates and she was kept on her own in a small sand paddock. This made her “HOT”.

“A huge 17ha horse named Dream. Born to race, to run, to be free, to be beautiful and to touch and change people’s lives. A beautiful Promise – handpicked just for her. Her story looks amazing and is amazing but her journey to get there has not been easy.

Dream was born to race on the tracks a life of no emotion, a job and a discipline. When she was done she was sold to a family with a young girl, who loved Dream, but was not equipped to help Dream with the healing of her past. She stayed in a small camp. Even though Dream was finally jumping 1.2m. Dream was labelled HOT, difficult and uncontrollable. So, Dream was misunderstood. And finally, out of desperation, the family gave her away.

Nothing is by chance, God had His eyes on Dream and at the perfect moment a family was looking for a horse and so Dreams life had changed. Dream arrived at iThemba Ranch, stressed, scared and strung out and lonely and the LIE of feeling unloved and unwanted. We worked a bit with her and found that even normal riding wasn’t easy and her jumping was terrible, hesitating, stopping and uncomfortable. To groom her was a nightmare, she wouldn’t stand still and didn’t like to be brushed anywhere on her body. (In a nutshell, she was dangerous) So… We focussed on her physical healing, food adjustment, some resting, new horse friends and space to run. Then came the introduction to the kids, and the LOVE they showed her. Through this, she turned into an angel in horsehair and has changed many kids’ lives in the short time she has been with us. Dream is now one of our Poster Horses. Is she perfect now? NO, but she is walking in her promise…? YES!” By Vanessa Cotterell

Through the help of the leaders at iThemba Ranch, she is a completely different horse. Her bit was changed to a softer bit and her diet was altered to calm her down. She was put into bigger camps of natural grass with other horses and her whole personality changed. Dress has soft eyes and is gentle and desperately looks for love. She is a blessing to the children at iThemba Ranch and they are a blessing to her as they helped her healing process.

Sandstorm – Mighty Mouse

Sandstorm was bred at a stud farm near Sutterheim. He was a very good looking colt and the breeders had high hopes for him. However, when he was 3years old he sustained an injury to his eye while playing around with the other young stallions in the camp. The breeders realised he could not see out if that eye and started to consider putting him down as he no longer had any value with only one working eye and would be difficult, if not dangerous, to back and train.

However, God had a better plan for this gentle giant. On that day a family member was visiting the stud and fell head over heels in love with Sandstorm and asked if she could not rather have the horse and if the stud could please try and back him for her as she had the faith in him. They agreed that it was worth a try… and it paid off! He was safe and easy to back and became a trustworthy horse to ride despite his blind eye.

He has played an important role in many children lives as he can be feisty at times but is also steady and fun loving. It just shows that God has place and a special role for each of us even though to the world it does not look like it because we maybe don’t want to fit into what our parents or school thinks we should fit into but there is always a place for each one of us.

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