Woman wants to expand Christian Horse Lover's Club

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, August 11, 2014

WHITEWATER—Noelle Larson was horse crazy from an early age, but her parents had no horse experience.

They were thrilled when they learned about Christian Horse Lover's Club, which combines the love of God with the love of horses.

“For them to hear about a faith-based mentoring club that teaches girls about horses was a real Godsend,” Noelle said.

The 23-year-old completed the nonprofit club's curriculum and stayed on to help with the program.

She has Kim Shanks to thank.

Kim started the group and is living out a dream at Hidden Falls Ranch near Whitewater.

She had an idea while riding 14 years ago.

“The Lord gave me this vision,” Kim recalls. “The vision was about starting a club that included both horses and devotions.”

Today she meets weekly with 11 girls, ranging in age from 9 to 14. She also has guided a group for boys.

Kim wrote a nondenominational curriculum for 21 Bible-based studies.

Each unit has complementary Bible and horse studies.

One unit is about Christians showing their faith to others. The companion study is about showing horses in competition.

“We learned how to talk to people about the Bible and our beliefs,” Noelle explained.

Christian studies were important to her.

“In other Christian-education settings, the group tends to be large,” Noelle said. “We met in a small group, and we each had a chance to talk about our needs.”

Kim is looking for people to start chapters in their communities. Her curriculum can be helpful in different ways. A Stoughton woman uses it for battered women and their children.

Noelle recently moved from Whitewater to Boston, where she is working on a degree in music therapy.

She continues to be inspired by Kim, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a riding accident in 2006.

“I couldn't ride for the first year after the accident,” Kim recalls. “I've got that horse-crazy gene, so it was hard for me.”

She has since had some recovery through therapeutic riding at SMILES of rural Darien and “many people praying for me,” Kim said. She uses a wheelchair, including one with big tires for outdoors so she can get close to her horses.

Her husband, Robin, cares for the horses and prepares them for club activities.

He and Kim figured out a way for Kim to get back on a horse. Wearing a climbing harness, she steers her wheelchair up a ramp. A jib crane lifts her by the harness from the chair onto a waiting horse. Someone walks alongside her as she rides.

“It's one thing to teach something,” Noelle said. “It is another thing to see Kim live what she believes. After her accident, she was steadfast in her belief that God would work it out. She is a great example to all the people she knows.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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