It was a sunny day. The air was fresh, the wind cool. The excitement of children filled the campground. I walked hastily to the barn, hoping I would not be late for my fourth-period class. After I got to the barn, I sat quietly on the benches waiting for the class to begin. I tried to not let my excitement get the best of me, but I’m sure the staff could tell.
Finally, everyone had arrived and the class began. My group got to go first! I walked up to the gigantic beast, a beast who had become a friend, and began to mount onto its back. Rocky, he was my favourite. We began the trail ride, and my horse and I effortlessly made our way through the trails—he already knew the way; I was just simply a passenger.
When the ride was over, I dismounted with a heavy heart. It was Friday, the last day I got to be with him. I gave him a hug, kissed him on the nose, and said a quiet goodbye, praying I would get to see him next year. Unfortunately, I never did. I was seven then, and 13 years later I have gone from being a camper with an excited heart, to the Horsebarn Director with a stronger passion.
The impact these animals have had on me, and the difference I have seen them make in so many other people’s lives, is phenomenal. I could share so many stories of the experiences I have gained through my job at Camp Frenda. They say the way to heaven is on horseback, and I couldn’t be more convinced God smiles every time a horse and human fall in love.
Some of my favourite moments on the job are seeing a girl who was too scared to even touch a horse the first time, begin to cry on the last when it is time to say goodbye. Or seeing the young boy who struggled to accept himself get so excited when he realizes the horse finally understands him. Or times when we’re able to use the horse to illustrate how God loves us, even more so than the way we love our horses, and seeing the pondering look on campers’ faces trying to make sense of it all.
The Horsebarn at Camp Frenda plays a uniquely powerful role in people’s lives. I have seen every willing soul from the old man with a cane to a young girl in a wheelchair, and people from all walks of life, be blessed by the ministry we are able to bring them.
The barn has gone through a fair share of challenges these past few years. From constant changes in leadership, aging equipment and infrastructure, and limited staff experience—the barn has struggled recently to maximize its potential. By God’s grace, I hope to turn the barn around. I hope to inspire those who come after me as people before me have done. I hope to make my barn more than just a summer camp activity, but a sanctuary for both beast and man to show each other God’s love.
I look forward to the day when we all get to heaven and I can hear all the stories of everything that has happened inside that small red building at the bottom of Horsebarn hill.
Some people may never set foot in a church, but in my barn, there isn’t much of a difference.
—Matthew Mann, Horsebarn Director at Camp Frenda