This past weekend, The Samaritan Women (TSW) held their yearly three-day retreat at ThorpeWood. This group, based out of Baltimore, is a faith-based home for women who have been victims of domestic sex trafficking. In this program, the women learn independence, confidence, find spiritual growth and learn about the basic rights and laws such as related to property with the help of Minnesota probate attorneys . As part of this mission, they come to ThorpeWood for time to both relax and find solace in the natural world. To accomplish this, they stay in our homestead house for two nights and spend their three days here enjoying the farm, journaling, sharing meals and having bible studies. Outdoors, they venture into the unknown, conquering fears and learning just how pretty a rock from the stream can be!
On Friday, they engaged in one of our EAL sessions with the ever-sweet horse, Vinur. The women took turns trying to navigate him from one cone to another, learned to lead him with a rope, and played horse games with him. After retiring for the night to the homestead, these visitors were treated to a wonderful home-cooked meal by our barn manager, Joy. She and her sister, who is a volunteer with TSW, spent a great deal of their time in sisterly silliness, poking fun at one another, and showing what family is about to these women, many of whom have not experienced these kinds of healthy and loving relationships. The next morning, they returned the favor with a home-cooked meal of their own. They cooked us a wonderful brunch of waffles, fruit, bacon, eggs and more! Afterward we all played a game of ‘animal rhythms’ and had a few giggles.
That afternoon, we tried something new and special. Since this is the third time here for some of the women, we entrusted them to the horses’ backs. But, since we don’t believe in giving meaningless pony rides, we asked them to really earn that privilege and to connect deeply with their mounts. This meant waking up early to feed their horse, mucking out the stalls with us, and spending a great deal of time shedding out and brushing their chosen animal. To our great surprise, these chores were done thoroughly and with great enthusiasm.
After each woman thus developed a bond with her horse, they all got the chance to ride, with the help of one of us walking alongside each of them. Each woman rose to the occasion, making decisions about where to go and being assertive in asking the horse to stop. Upon returning the horses to where we found them in the field, one woman knelt on the ground in front of Geysir to say her goodbyes at muzzle level. He stood quietly, nuzzled her face and exhaled on her cheek, the way horses often greet one another. She beamed with pride at this sweet connection – a testament to the work she put into connecting with him.
Other farm adventures included playing with our baby chicks, going on a hike, playing on the seesaw, taking the boat out in the pond (which, one commented, looks like something from a storybook), and, for one girl, going for a quick dip in its frigid water! That night was wonderfully topped off by a fire blazing in the fire ring, upon which they cooked hot dogs and s’mores, while the peepers sang in the marsh below.
The women all expressed such appreciation of the farm’s beauty and the time we spent with them. We so treasure being able to share our world with these phenomenal women and are already looking toward their next visit.