More Gifts: What I learned this summer – guest blogger, Rachel Bisaillon

Three hours. That’s it. No more. No less. In just three hours, I learned more about myself than I have this entire summer.

Last Tuesday night at polo, Joell said she  really needed our help the next day because a group of girls were coming to the barn to learn about horses and ride a little.


photo by Paul Van Allen

My first thought was “No biggie, people come to the barn all the time. We give a tour, teach them some horse stuff, and then they can ride a little. We have done it before, tomorrow will be no different.”

That morning on our way to the barn I asked my mom to stop at Starbucks. She answered  “No, if we stop, we will be late.” I was not content with that response, but I figured I was lucky to be going to the barn at all.

We had camp in the morning, ate lunch, and finished the rest of the chores. We were in the middle of a spur-of-the-moment jumping lesson when two vans pulled into the ranch. One of our best volunteers went to meet them, while we finished up in the ring. Once we finished cooling out our horses, we headed up the hill, where we were met by five teenage girls, scrambling to put on boots & helmets. We stopped to introduce ourselves and our horses, whom they were delighted to meet. We taught the girls how to groom, tack up, and lead their horses down to the arena. I was the “walker” for Bert, one of our largest, but best, school horses. The girl who chose  Bert was a little tentative at first, but eased up after she got a feel for his easy-going personality. We chatted about the barn and how I got involved with Square Peg, and I taught her the basic mechanics of riding. Then, it came time to trot. Coming from someone who used to ride Bert a lot, his trot is definitely the bounciest out of all our horses, which means trotting without knowing how to post is actually pretty uncomfortable. He began to trot and instantly her entire face lit up, and she started laughing and giggling, just like a little kid. It was her first time riding, but she seemed totally at ease trotting circles and watching all of her friends trot around. It’s hard to explain, but she just had this look of absolute contentment, like she wasn’t thinking about anything else, just focusing on this moment.

After untacking and grooming, we all sat around chatting and eating snacks until the counselors said that they needed to get going so they wouldn’t hit traffic. They gave us hugs and every last one of them left with a huge smile on their face.


Rachel and Beetle

Would you believe me if I told you that every single one of those girls has had a traumatic, unbearable, and disturbing childhood? So bad that you cannot even begin to imagine how they got managed to endure it? Yeah, me neither. Would you believe me if I said that they all have been abused and now live in a group home together? Again, me neither.  I knew about their situations before they came, and I was expecting a shy, docile, reserved group of girls. Boy was I wrong. These girls were so friendly, excited, and open, I was shocked. After the day, Joell, Farris and I were discussing how the day went, and we were all moved by the group.

It truly made me think; this morning I was so mad that my mom wouldn’t let me stop at Starbucks, and here these girls are, with such a harsh and dreadful past behind them and a tough road ahead of them, and here I am, complaining about getting a $5 frappuccino. This summer I have been so grateful that I have been able to go to the barn every single day, but that day really opened my eyes to what else I have, and how much I really have to be grateful for. A five minute trot session made this girl so unbelievable happy, and here I am, taking hours and hours of trotting for granted. After hearing and learning about these girls’ situations, I definitely feel more grateful for everything that I have; a family that I can count on and that support me, friends that I can see whenever I want, an education that will carry me through life, and opportunities that will mold me into who I turn out to be.

I don’t think these girls understand that in just a few hours, we may have impacted them, but they impacted us as well. I truly thank them for opening my eyes and helping me to learn to be a little more grateful. I am really glad that we were able to make the day possible, because that’s what Square Peg is all about, changing lives, one person at a time.



7 Replies to “More Gifts: What I learned this summer – guest blogger, Rachel Bisaillon”

  1. Hi, Rachel! I was there that day with my two young sons, and like you, was extremely touched to watch the joy on those girls’ faces as they rode around the arena. Of all the people I have witnessed Joell work with, none have stuck with me as much as that group. I told my husband that if we passed each other on the street, our initial perceptions of each other likely would have been quite different from what they were at Square Peg. What an awesome gift for all of us to have been put on equal ground that day to talk to each other without barriers of any kind. I am glad to read that this experience was so special for you!

  2. WOW! There are a lot of kids that need to read that story. Even or maybe especially, those like Rachel, who have a lot and just don't appreciate it. I'll bet she went home & told her Mom & Dad "thanks"; I know I would.

    Good job Joell!


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