Christian non-profit motivates children to live life abundantly with horses

By Lauren Mueller, Reporter

Located in the foothills just outside of Clovis, Abundant Life Ranch and its founder, Betsy Cockrell, embraces February’s theme of love during every month of the year.

Abundant Life Ranch is a non-profit organization centered around the founder’s belief that everyone is created to live an abundant life. The ranch creates an environment of trust and respect during its sessions by encouraging those who attend to use these tenants around horses.

“Communication, trust, and respect is our theme,” said Betsy Cockrell, founder of Abundant Life Ranch. “You must have communication to have trust and trust to have respect and respect to have a good relationship.”

The program is rooted in the Christian faith, with a Bible study incorporated into the time the children spend with the horses. Each day builds upon the last, and by the end of the session, Cockrell says she has seen children transformed.

“I’ve seen kids come out here who are afraid to be around the horses at first,” she said. “One little boy in particular came out the first time and didn’t want to be around the horses. But by the end, he was asking to come back, and he did, and he brought friends with him, and he was more confident.”

Cockrell also said that she sees the program as important for providing a “safe space” for children to come. Some of the sessions Abundant Life Ranch hosts are for at-risk children. For these events, Cockrell and her family work closely with other non-profit organizations.

“The at-risk kids can come here and even if they don’t know where they’re going to sleep that night, at least they had three meals and time to just be a kid,” Cockrell said. “And they also know that they have a team of people who are supporting them and care about them.”

Carole Baird, a volunteer with Abundant Life Ranch, helped last year when some at-risk children attended one of the camp’s sessions.

“The kids who had been so shy, and afraid to go near the horses or the people they did not know, were now able to relax, laugh and really have a fun with the horses, each other, and with the loving adult and teen helpers,” Baird said.

Baird was so impacted by her experience with the at-risk children that she continues to meet with one of the groups who attended. They minister together to people in poverty stricken areas, and it is not uncommon for the children to talk about their experiences at Abundant Life Ranch. Baird says many of them look forward to returning.

Diane Ainsworth also volunteers at Abundant Life Ranch, playing guitar during their worship sessions and helping to prepare food. What was impressed upon her by the camp was the love that those who volunteer there exhibit towards children they do not personally know.

“The love that the ranch pours out on these kids starts long before they arrive,” Ainsworth said. “Each camper is prayed for beforehand and the individual needs of each group are considered as the day is planned. Betsy and her volunteer staff have a wonderful way of making each person feel important and included as they patiently lead them through these new experiences.”

“There is love everywhere at ALR,” said Ellen Cantu, one of the teenage volunteers at the ranch. “Through the people, horses, and the Holy Spirit.”

Abundant Life Ranch hosts three-day girls’ camps during the summer months and one-on-one sessions during the Spring and Fall months. They also have Cowboy Gatherings every fourth Thursday of each month. Those who attend are advised to “bring your own chair for worship and fellowship.”

Abundant Life Ranch hopes to continue to minister to all children in the foothills and the surrounding communities, such as Clovis, for as long as they are capable.