Tall in the Saddle

Tall in the Saddle

For 18-year-old Micah -- undersized, bespectacled and naturally introverted -- the past two years at Miracle Farm have been something of a coming out party. Especially if your idea of a party includes a horse that weighs ten times what you do and has a mind of its own.

Micah spent his earliest years living on the streets with his mother. Even after he was adopted by an aunt, he missed a lot of school and was way behind grade level when he arrived at the Farm in 2011.

“Micah came in with no self-discipline,” said Miracle Farm Executive Director Alex Hamilton. “He did what he wanted, when he wanted and at the pace he wanted.”

As a result, his early months at the Farm were challenging for Micah, his house mom and dad, and the staff. Attention to “The Playbook,” a program unique to Miracle Farm that focuses on step-by-step, measurable improvements, helped him turn things around.

The Playbook assigns boys to three categories – Ranch Hand, Roper and Top Hand – based on horsemanship and classroom successes and their ability to grow within the Miracle Farm program.

“The Playbook gives young men, their families and our staff measurable and concrete methods to gauge success,” said Robbie Fuller, the Farm’s Clinical Director. “We are all speaking the same language and understand what behavioral and heart changes need to take place to know the boys are moving in the right direction.

“When someone is told ‘that’s not Top Hand behavior’ all the boys know what that means. It has helped solidify a positive peer culture because the boys can hold each other accountable and lift each other up with encouragement.”

In the Farm’s horse program, the Playbook gave Micah a chance to put the importance of a good foundation into practice.

“Doing the groundwork with my horse helped me build confidence,” he said. “It taught me that the more effort I put into things, the better the outcome.”

James Paben, a horsemanship instructor at the Farm, has worked closely with Micah and his horse, Shadow.

“When boys like Micah come in who don’t know anything about horsemanship, the horse takes advantage of them,” said James. “The work on the ground, before the boy ever gets in the saddle, lets the horse know who’s in charge, because if the boy doesn’t take charge, the horse will.

"The Playbook uses ground work to set the foundation. With Micah, it was fun to watch because when he saw positive results, you could see a light kick on. He has come a long way, he really has.”

For Micah, getting with the Playbook program had made a difference in how he sees himself and how he sees life.

“The Playbook helped me see what is needed in the area of self-control,” he explained. “As I moved from Level 1, Ranch Hand, to Level 2, Roper, I realized it took more control not to be involved in petty arguments.”

The work Micah has done in the horse arena has translated into success in the classroom as well. He now not only wants to finish high school, but to pursue a degree in accounting.

“The Playbook is all about getting back to basics,” said Alex. “Micah has learned to complete tasks in a timely manner, take pride in his work and improve his leadership skills. At times he has had to take a step back to refocus on basics in order to move forward, but he has always moved forward.”

His house mom and dad, Renda and Chris Welch, see the positive changes on a daily basis.

“Micah has been working on having his own voice and being assertive so he can stand up for himself and make decisions for his life,” they said. “Before he came to the Farm, he didn’t have much opportunity to think and speak for himself, so it’s been great to see him be more in control of his life.”

With the positive foundation provided by the Playbook, Micah is sitting tall in the saddle as he looks to a future that has never been brighter.