One of Kim Meeder's first riding experiences came at the age of nine, on the day of her parents' funeral. Riding quickly became a healing refuge for her after the shock of their deaths. Her father, unable to face the bitter divorce ahead, decided to end it all by killing his wife then committing suicide. By the love of a little mare and a merciful God, this young girl's life was saved from pain and despair.
This saving grace became a symbol of what was to come, years later, when Kim and her husband, Troy, made the decision to purchase property and start a small ranch. The only land they could afford was a nine-acre rock quarry, used to mine cinders for winter use on the roads of Central Oregon. The property was so devastated that no one else wanted it, with no trees, no grass, not even soil.
Transforming the gaping pit into an environment suitable for horses became the Meeders' next goal. This involved planting broken, unwanted trees in the wasteland and filling it with neglected horses to love broken, and neglected kids. It was a perfect match. In 1995 Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch was born. Currently, the ranch is a haven for 26 horses and 4,000 - 5,000 visitors annually-more than 25,000 visitors to date.
Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, funded by private donations and grants with no government assistance, offers its therapeutic program at no cost to participants. Since its inception in 1995, the ranch has hosted 25,000 riders (most are socially, mentally, emotionally or physically challenged children) and has rescued approximately 300 neglected or abused horses. The therapeutic program at Crystal Peaks, where the rehabilitation of abused horses is foundational in the therapy of children, is unique within the United States.
Kim Meeder, a certified Health Fitness Instructor, has a passion for sports. She enjoys skiing on snow and water, snowshoeing, running marathons, strength training, equine endurance racing, and surfing. Meeder has competed, on a national level, in Nordic ski racing and has participated in the Olympic biathlon trials. She has also set two world records in power lifting.
Yet other passions pale against Kim Meeder's love for the "high places." As a fledgling mountaineer, Kim has climbed many of the highest peaks in Oregon, Washington and California. "It is in these powerful places that I see God's face reflected in the creation of His hands," she explains. "What an awesome God!"
Hope Rising, Meeder's first book, communicates her life message through its stories of horse and rider and healing. "I want to do what someone did for me-they threw out a life ring into my devastated life. I want people to know that there is hope."
Currently, the ranch supports around twenty-five horses. Of those about 75% are rescued from severe neglect, starvation and/or abuse. Because the ranch was founded, in part, as an equine rescue and rehabilitation facility, we acquire our horses in nearly every imaginable way. Since CPYR has no law enforcement abilities, we cannot confiscate horses in need. Consequently, the ranch purchases nearly all the horses it rescues. Their freedom is not free, although it is always worth the cost. To date the ranch has assisted in about three hundred horse rescue operations.
A Conversation with Kim Meeder
Q: Tell us about Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch. How did it get started?
KM:Crystal Peaks was started by the smile of God. When we rescued our first two horses in 1995, we had no idea that this ranch would be the result. My husband and I watched in awe as kids just started coming.
In the very beginning, the horses were not yet broke to ride, so it was obvious that the kids were not coming for what they could get. They were coming for what they could give. In their efforts to make the horses better, the kids themselves became better.
I believe the ranch was started the moment I witnessed a mute girl actually begin speaking to one of our starving horses. A starving horse reaching out to a starving girl, each seeing within the other a reflection of themselves. The needy horse was able to go where no adult had been in years. That's when I knew that I needed to build a haven where trust and hope could flourish.
Q: You have your own story about being rescued from despair by God's gift of a horse. Can you tell us about that?
KM: One of my first riding experiences came on the day of my parents' funeral. At the age of nine, I made the decision that I did not want to go to their memorial service; I did not want to see their lifeless bodies. I chose instead to protect my parents' memory and stay home. I spent that day at my cousins' house, riding their horses. A day that for most is a destructive ending became the beginning of healing. Between the love of God and a little horse, my life was saved.
Q: What inspired you to write Hope Rising: Stories from the Ranch of Rescued Dreams?
KM: I have had the honor of witnessing so many miraculous events. My heart has been filled to bursting; I love sharing what I have seen. In the telling of these stories, I have watched people's lives changed. Their silent tears begin to fall as they, too, are moved to a place where their own hearts are lifted, where their own hope is stirred.
Q: Are the stories in this book all true?
KM: All of the stories in Hope Rising are true. I simply recount real events that happened in the lives of real people. I believe that is why the book has so much impact on the lives of those who read it.
Q: How did you choose the stories?
KM: It was a difficult process. The stories that did make it into the book were chosen for their diversity and flow since it is my desire that every individual who reads this book will have personal identification with many of the stories. There are several very short, more whimsical pieces that were chosen to simply give the reader an emotional break between the “powerhouse” stories. Sadly, many of my favorite stories did not make the cut into this book due to space restrictions.
Q: Will people who aren't particularly excited about horses enjoy this book?
KM: Absolutely! That question might be like asking someone who isn't particularly excited about gardening if he or she enjoys receiving flowers. This book documents triumph and hope. It captures the rise of the human (and equine) spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds. It is a book that will inspire all who read it.
Q: Who would you most like to reach with this book?
KM: This book was written to inspire those who have suffered, those who have known the pain of a broken heart. It is the victory cry of real individuals—issued to all who read this book—urging them to triumph over their pain and rise toward hope.
Q: How is the ranch doing? Are you growing?
KM: The ranch is certainly a dynamic presence. Because we only have nine acres, we are bursting at the seams with 25 horses. The last three seasons have brought between four and five thousand visitors to the ranch—for a total of well over 25,000 riders since 1995. More children are coming on a daily basis than can ride, so we are creating new programs that don't involve horses. We want the kids to know they can come any time and still have a wonderful experience. We are seeing a large shift toward kids just wanting to spend time in a place where they know that they are safe and loved.
Q: You have many stories of children's lives being changed through the ministry of the ranch. What about you? Have the children taught you anything about faith?
KM: If there is any good in me, it is because of the Lord and the children that I am surrounded by. I know that I am the most blessed woman on earth because of the privilege of spending time with these precious lambs. I cry behind my sunglasses all the time. I can't imagine how barren my life would be without the incredible blessings these kids bring to my heart.
Q: What is the final thought you would like to leave with us?
KM: It is my deepest prayer that all who read Hope Rising will know how important they are, how special they are—how deeply they are loved by the Lord, and by those around them. Each reader is a remarkable treasure -- full of gifts that they in turn can give. They are unique and priceless on this earth. Their life and their actions make a difference to those around them. Someone more wise than I said, “You might be just one person in this world, but to one person you just might be the world.”
Read more about CRYSTAL PEAKS YOUTH RANCH.
Read excerpts from HOPE RISING.
For information about how the public can help through financial donations, support for the care of horses, volunteer opportunities or donations in kind, contact the ranch at 541.330.0123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.CrystalPeaksYouthRanch.org for more information.