I should be studying. But I can’t not share this.

I’ve been having a hard time at ‘shoeing school lately. I’m still having a great time. We got to do a ton of trimming last week, and afterward, because it was our first warm day, I swam our river, just to see if I could. It was awesome. But lately, I’ve been having a hard time.

See, I’m running out of money. There’s all kinds of tools I really need, like a right handed hoof knife, and a clipping hammer. I had a tuition payment come due recently (I’m paying out of pocket to be debt-free, remember), not to mention it’s tax time, and I’ve still gotta eat. I’ve gotta eat more, in fact. I’ve lost more than a pound a week since getting here, which is somewhat concerning for a Crohn’s patient, and if I continue at this rate, it’s gonna be bad news.

But even as I’ve been really frustrated lately, I’ve got to brag on God’s providence. For example, people keep giving me hammers. I was getting to a point where the fact that I didn’t have a clipping hammer was impeding my progress. Just before graduation, I was practicing in the forge, and one of the upper classmen came up and was helping me. He considered what I was doing for a second and then commented, “That hammer looks really heavy for you. I’ve got a pound and a half rounding hammer and I think I’m going to give it to you.”

I thanked him, and then forgot about it. The afternoon of graduation for the upper class, as he was loading his truck to leave, I went down to shake his hand and say goodbye and all. I hadn’t even said hi before he ran inside and came out with the little rounding hammer for me. It sounds cheap of me to say it this way perhaps, but I was really touched that as he was loading up, with his girlfriend, his parents, his stuff, and his dog, he remembered the little hammer to give to me. It sat in my bucket of tools for a few days until a Monday shop night, when I finally found the time to tune the handle up, and put my mark on it. Then I got the new shop apprentice to help me modify it into a clipping hammer.

She lost about a quarter pound in the modifying process, and is thus a bit light for a clipping hammer, but I think she’s a beauty and I’m delighted with her. I named her Helga, and she pulls beautiful clips.

Thus I came into possession of a clipping hammer.

Fast forward a few weeks later. I am now part of the middle class, and we took the new guys out trimming for the first time. The new guy I was partnered with has been apprenticing a little, so he’s really good at dressing down and pulling shoes. We were talking about how I have a hard time cutting clinches and the method he uses to get it done. Apparently he uses a rubber mallet instead of his driving hammer.

A few days later, again I had completely forgotten about it, when he wandered into our shop and slipped a rubber mallet into my tool bucket. I asked, “to borrow?” He said he’s fixing to get another style that he like better, so I should just keep that one, see how I like it, and if it’s not my style, to just pass it on to someone else.

Thus I came into possession of a clinch-cutting mallet.

Back up a week again. Day of graduation. I had gone up to the shop early to help clean and set up. I was cleaning out the classroom when the director’s wife came and said when I had a minute, to see her in her office. I finished my cleaning, and then went in there. She sat me down and said basically, she talked about it with her husband, the director, and because they believe in what I’m doing (they know about Montana) they agreed to negate my April payment, which I was $1200 short for, and give it to me as a scholarship. I gave her a hug.

Thus I can continue here for another month.

But that’s not all. Just yesterday, I was having a really bad day. I’ve been practicing one-heat toe bends for four days, and all of a sudden, at noon on Friday, I ceased being able to get a symmetrical toe bend in one heat. I was tired, hangry, and frustrated, and I cried at my anvil until two o’ clock, still making and throwing down bad toe bends. I got a pep talk from everyone’s favorite instructor, and permission to go to lunch, which really helped, and I ended the day emotionally drained, with only a circle to show for all my effort and frustration.

Because I was so over everything when class let out, I left pretty quick to do my laundry and grocery shopping. I had to get out of there. My laundry went fine. My trouble started when I went to the grocery store. This first job I got here paid us on a prepaid debit card. I’m never agreeing to be paid like that again, but that’s beside the point. The point is, I had about $15.75 worth of groceries, about $10 on my pay card, and about $20 in my bank account. Or so I thought. First I made the mistake of trying to self-check out, and I fought with the machine, which only escalated my frustration. I had the attendant cancel everything so I could go to a real person. I went to a real cashier, and my pay card didn’t work. I had already withdrawn the bulk of my pay, because I didn’t trust the thing, but I really wanted that last $9. We tried several times, with my general state of exasperation rising with every failed attempt. Finally I lost patience and swiped my debit card.


Swipe again.


Cashier said extremely delicately, “It says insufficient funds, if I may.”

I just started to cry again. I couldn’t help it. I’ve gotten it straightened out now how I overdrafted (and the bank forgave it because it’s the first time I’ve mad a mistake and I normally have my crap together), but at the time I couldn’t understand why it was having issues, because my own records indicated I had $20 in my checking account. I muttered to forget it, and tried to get the heck out of Dodge. The cashier was really trying to be nice, and he said they could hold my groceries for a few days. But he was holding up my escape, and all I could say was, “Forget it. Just forget it.” Then the lady behind me asked how much my bill was, and when the cashier told her, she paid for my groceries. That lady paid for my groceries. I totally lost it then. I think I thanked her twice, as coherently as I could, and then all but ran out of the door, feeling like a thief.

All of this to say: providence exists. With every hair-raising experience or need that’s suddenly resolved, I become more sure that this is where I need to be. It’s just like Wyoming.

Es war nicht alles Schlecht

Last time I blogged I told y’all about all the hard stuff. Today I’m telling you about all the awesome stuff.

Right now it’s the end of our first term, and we’re preparing for our practical proficiency tests. While to most people that might sound like the worst thing ever, I’m having a great time.

Our list of required tests is a s follows:

  • Straighten a pair of shoes in 10 minutes
  • Cut a piece of 3/8″ X 3/4″ bar stock in half and forge into squares in 20 minutes.
  • Straighten a pair of shoes an turn them into circles in 20 minutes
  • Straighten a pair of shoes and turn them into diamonds in 20 minutes
  • Make 1 handmade plain stamped front shoe in 40 minutes
  • Make 1 handmade plain stamped hind shoe in 40 minutes
  • Shape a pair of front keg shoes with toe clips in 35 minutes
  • Shape a pair of hind keg shoes with quarter clips in 45 minutes.

We haven’t had any forge homework for a couple of weeks so that we could just practice. Last night at shop night I was doing dry runs of the front plain stamped handmade. I was on my last heat, trying to punch the last three nail holes. My shoe had cooled too much for me to do anything, and it kept bouncing off the anvil: onto my shoes, onto the floor where it’s really hard to pick up, and onto my chaps, which it started burning. Then my timer went off. I was so frustrated that I was so close to finishing that I quenched my shoe off and threw it against the wall, which startled my poor forge-mate, who has the anvil next to me. I’m a little ashamed of myself for that outburst, but after about a 15 minute break sitting on the floor under the shelf I have by my station, I was ready to go again. I convinced my forge-mate to do a run with me, and off we went. I actually got that shoe done, and while the nail holes were punched a little coarse, 5 out of 6 actually fit the nails.

After that fun but exhausting exercise, I couldn’t hold my hands steady, and we were all hot and tired in body and mind. So we did the only logical thing, and went out for ice cream because Dairy Queen was giving away free vanilla cones. Best decision ever.

This morning at 6 I did a run of the front pair of keg shoes. Then at 8, we all walked into the classroom fully prepared to go trimming, and were instead informed that because the weather was bad, we’d do half of our proficiencies today instead of on Thursday when they’re scheduled. That actually got me pretty fired up. We did the first four tests today (I barely made it), and we’ll do the last four on Thursday. I was so full of adrenaline that I danced the Dance of Bill, that stomp that B taught us in Wyoming. Apparently one of the instructors saw me, and he made me do it again in front of the whole class so he could film it.

At the second to last test, my anvil neighbor (the one I startled when I chucked my shoe across my station), got stressed out at the one minute mark, forgot one of his shoes was hot (it had just come off a red heat), and grabbed it with his bare hand, which grilled four of his fingers to medium rare. The instructor said he could smell it. But you know what? He finished last test, dangit. And came back up to forge after lunch, during which I’d given him some burn cream and liquid bandage. I was impressed.

This day’s been great. We got out right at 5, and the weather was so beautiful most of us took our suppers outside. One of the guys just bought an old motorcycle, so he started it up, a couple of the guys got out some gloves and a few baseballs, and someone was blasting classic rock on a speaker. They’re having a bonfire as I write this, which always makes me a little torn, because I need to go to bed.

I need to go to bed because I finally got a job. At the Subway down the road. Then I got another one at a huge Standardbred farm, and I’m going to quit Subway for it because both the pay and the hours are better. But I’m exhausted. At any rate, I need to go to bed or out to the fire. I’ve had fun this week.

Life in the Snakepit

So, I keep saying over and over how this is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. One of the other students informed me several weeks ago that everybody goes through a breakdown at some point. Like, seriously, it’s brutal. Or maybe I’m just a wimp. But I did just post my weekly routine, so you can be the judge of that. But anyway, my body aches all the time, and even though we just finished the weekend, my mind is screaming for some more sleep. I’ve ruined more clothes in the seven weeks I’ve been here than in probably two years at home. But what really makes it hard here is the people.

That’s what makes this place a snakepit.

Now, before I go too much farther, let me say that my intent is not to “vent” or to complain. I’m not out to bash people. That’s why I deliberately waited until I was having a good day to write this post. But in the interest of being honest, I felt I needed to write a hard post about why and how life is so difficult here.

Perhaps it’s just the fact that I’ve truly lived a charmed life up to this point. That my life has been pretty drama-free. But being thrown in here was like being thrown to the lions. Like being on outreach all by myself. There is  darkness and a viciousness to the atmosphere here that is at least as intense (if not more so) as anything I felt in Mongolia.

I already told you about the beer-pong incident. And the interrogation incident. But there’s also been the incident of an almost-fight, incidents of thievery, of vicious backstabbing and of throwing under the bus. Of a girl being followed back to her hotel room by a drunken classmate. And I know that these things are actually part of the typical college experience. But this is a one-horse town. There’s only thirty of us. We all live in the same building and work in the same shop. There is literally no escape.  Gossip gets around super fast and super inflated. Nothing is a secret. There is no restraint and no kindness.

And it tears me up.

I’ve actually done a decent job of staying neutral and on everyone’s good side. But to hear them all ripping into one person of an evening, just for the fun of it, is sickening.

Allow me to backtrack a moment and say that when I assert that there’s not kindness, that that’s not entirely true. They can be very very nice. I’ve had all kinds of help with all the little things (like carrying heavy buckets), and just this morning actually, my dorm chore wasn’t passing inspection because my chore partner has forsaken me, and one of the guys stood up for me. That’s unheard of, and I thanked him for it afterward.

But even while they can be super nice one minute, it seems like there’s certain people they’ve singled out to be the butt of everyone’s frustration. We talk out of one side of our mouths about how we’re tired of all the backstabbing, while out of the other side we blame someone else for it all.

Despite not being part of any of it (as far as I know) I have cried myself to sleep at night because of the maliciously negative atmosphere it all creates. And what makes it worse is that we are so capable of changing the atmosphere. It is within our power.

The one other Christian here and I have begun having intercession for the place at 5:30 in the mornings before we go up to the shop.

To be honest, I’m not totally sure where I was going with this post. I suppose I just wanted to give you the idea that not all of what makes this difficult is classwork related. It really gets to me and there’s a lot of days where I either want to strangle somebody or cut loose in the middle of the week and drive home, crying the whole two and half hours of the way.

But all is not lost. I do enjoy the work I am doing, and to be honest, there’s probably not any better preparation for some of the things I might experience in Montana. Not least of which is being broke. There’s another hard thing: I’ve applied to 10 businesses and still have failed to find a job. But again. All is not lost. God came through for me to go to Wyoming, and if this is indeed the place for me, He’ll come through again.

Driving Steel-A Day in the Life

I thought I might do a freebie post about what it is I actually do here at horseshoeing school. It varies from day to day, but we do have somewhat of a routine.

On the average day, I get up at 4:30, get ready, eat breakfast, grab some coffee (yes, I’ve succumbed), do my chores, and am in the shop by 6. Every day of the week we have shop morning from 6-8 am where we can practice the previous week’s skills, work on our homework, sharpen our knives, or trim cadaver legs (horse cadaver legs). I love trimming cadaver legs.

On Mondays, we usually have a lecture until about 10:30 or 11 on anatomy, physiology, bio mechanics, shoe building or conformation; to name a few topics. Then we go out into the shop to learn a new forging technique or another step on the road to building good shoes. We practice that until 5 o clock.

On Mondays and Thursdays, we have shop night. That’s from 6-9 pm, and it’s basically “free” shop time, just like shop mornings: we can work on homework or dink around with our other new skills.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we go off-site to trim at different farms that the school provides hoof care for. Today, for instance, we went to a thoroughbred breeding farm and trimmed a whole bunch of heavily pregnant broodmares. We’ve also been to a racing thoroughbred retirement farm, and to trim all of the university’s research horses. Trimming days are probably my favorite thing. I love being outside, moving around, and I love the camaraderie of jamming 15 people into a pickup truck to go around the farm. If we get back early (before 4 pm) from trim days, back into the forge we go.

Thursday is always a long day, because there’s no lecture (unless we do a review or a dissection), so it’s basically just straight forging practice from 6 am to 9 pm.

But Friday follows Thursday, and after our weekly quiz, sometimes we trim horses in the shop, and sometimes we have Friday-Funday! That’s when we are given loose rein to do whatever we want in the forge. I made myself a bracelet last Funday, and the stuff other people make runs the gamut from bracelets, love-hearts, and decorative hooks, to those little puzzle games and hand-forged pizza cutters. I love Friday-Fundays. I guess I’m really enjoying myself in general, despite the weekly shenanigans.

On the weekends there’s always a group that goes to the bar on Friday night. More power to them, but I just always pray that they don’t barge into my room at 3 in the morning and drunkenly cross-question me like happened to the poor guy who lives downstairs once. We go hiking on Saturdays sometimes, and I’ve found a nice church to go to on Sundays. I go for runs sometimes. This last weekend we had a macaroni and cheese bake-off. That was a ton of fun, because we cooked it at the same time, and then everyone ate it, like a real family meal. My mac-and-cheese won. We’re planning another bake-off in a couple weeks, and I’d love for it to become a regular thing.

All in all, I’m having a fine time. It’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m trying to get a job, which will make it even harder. But if it was easy, everyone would do it.

On the Road Again

Getting back to blogging feels like a giant sigh at the end of a long day. Since I’ve been back from Wyoming/Mongolia I feel simultaneously like I just got here and like I’ve been back for ages. Lemme tell you, readjusting to “civilian” life after YWAM is really hard.

But to cut a long story short. I worked a ton during this fall semester of community college. I was basically just trying to keep afloat and get to Montana as fast as possible. I really enjoyed all my classes, and got to ride quite a bit, but for the most part I was just trying to scrape along and stave off the burnout. Sandpaper is what comes to mind when I think about those six months.

I kept writing letters to my CWAM friends and was able to skype a few times. There’s still a couple I’ve been shy of getting real good contact established with, which I regret, but all is not lost. I can keep trying.

I got notice of acceptance to the Montana base a few days before Christmas, which was the best gift ever. And then during the first week of the new year I moved to horseshoeing school.

That was intense. I was telling one of my classmates the other day, all of my experience with horses thus far has been around really great people who enjoy each other’s company, and who operate like they’re all on the same big team. So I was in for a shock when I got to ‘shoeing school and realized that the gossip is as bad as an all-girls middle school, you really must watch your back. Combine that with the fact that during that first week I was desperately trying to adjust and figure out if this really is the right thing for me, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I did a fair bit of crying during the first week and a half.

Since that time, though, I think I have gotten it settled (through lots of prayer and thought) that this is indeed where I am supposed to be right now.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still rough. The very first weekend I was wakened at 3:03 in the morning by an angry RA who was trying to figure out who had taken one of the doors off its hinges for an underage game of beer pong. We’ve had similar shenanigans every weekend since.

But I have started to make a few friends. I’ve found a nice church. We got to attend the International Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati a week or two ago, and had a lot of fun there.  Mentally and physically this is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I’m starting to get stronger and am beginning to really enjoy my homework.

One of my jobs petered out towards the end of last semester, and I haven’t been able to find one at ‘shoeing school yet. So that is one area where I’m still struggling. But I’m trying to remember how much help I had to get to WY, and how if this really is the place for me, the money will come.

I hope to get back to blogging more regularly, especially since my life is moving at lightning pace right now. But there it is. I’m officially a farrier in the making. It’s basically a lifestyle shift, and will require lots of maintenance and practice while in Montana to keep up my skills. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.


Ride On: The Great Conclusion of the Cowboys/Mongolia Saga

Well, here we are. This is the end. Well, sort of. It’s the end of a great adventure that started in November of 2015, when I first heard of Cowboys With A Mission. But as my sister’s tagline says,

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.” –Richard Bach.

Once we got back from Mongolia, we spent a few days just kind of readjusting to being back in the U. S., and getting over the jetlag. I also had my third and final infusion in Billings. One of the men from the community took us to the ghost town of Kerwin as a treat, and that was very pretty. Apparently it was a gold mining town destroyed by an avalanche. It was pretty cool.

That week we went through some debriefing and re entry classes, and on Thursday we graduated from the DTS. Here we are at graduation, trying not to cry.


Then, the very next day, we all took off. My family and I spent the weekend at Yellowstone, which, as a side note, I was enamored with. I think it deserves all its hype, though, being from a place where I can visit the Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park anytime,  I’m a little perturbed by the fact that you have to pay to get into national parks in the West. My only critique is because of the boardwalks (which of course are there only for our own safety), the whole place feels a little like a zoo, and there’s pressure to take a quick look at the hydro-thermal features and then move on so someone else can have a look, which wasn’t conducive to truly appreciating the sights. But that was my only disappointment. I must go back someday.

And finally the time has come to give you the full scoop on the drastic blog changes. Let me just tell you the story as it happened.

While we were in Zhunhaara, I started to feel really restless about the future, because it seemed like there were so many things I could go do now that I couldn’t pick one. My “halfway farm” was still the goal, but I was trying to find some stepping stones between it and college. So I started praying about it. I prayed about it every day for three weeks, and then every few days for two or three more weeks after that.

I began to feel like I hadn’t given my halfway farm to God. I think it’s an excellent idea, but I hadn’t really asked God’s opinion of it. So it took me a week to come to grips with that fact, and “give up” the halfway farm, so to speak. To be OK with doing it or not doing it, whatever God led me to do. College was included in this release of my plans to God’s safekeeping.

A week into my prayer marathon, I felt like God was telling me to skip college, which terrified me, of course, because I’m NOT a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type person. But I’d made a decision: that whatever I felt like God was telling me to do, I would do. So I very quickly came to grips with skipping college. Way more quickly than I could have if I’d made the decision on my own.

Then of course, the question was what I was to do instead. That answer took me two weeks to get, though in hindsight, I’d been getting the answer since mid-lecture phase through a series of unlikely coincidences and unintentional prophetic words. There is a YWAM base in western Montana, and I got a very clear feeling that spending the next two or three years there was the answer. Even knowing next to nothing about the ministry, I felt (and feel) confident that it’s the right direction.

So that’s my new plan. When we got back from Yellowstone, I wrote a letter to Montana, explaining the situation, and have since received a text, phone call, and email, and am now in the process of filling out the staff application.

I wavered really painfully for about a month about whether or not I should take community college classes while I work to get to Montana, or if I should just work, but eventually enrolled so as not to waste my scholarships and to be in a better position if I ever wanted to go back to school.

Then, because it will likely take me a while to get to Montana,  what I’m hoping to do is spend 9 months learning to shoe horses at trade school, so that I can be a self supporting missionary. The cool thing about this particular horseshoeing school is that it is the only one in the country accredited by the Dept. of Education. This means it’s the only one giving an accredited certification, which is required by every other country in the world in order to work on horses. So with a certification from this school, I can shoe horses anywhere in the world, which would be great if I ever end up overseas for an extended period.

If you’re wondering what became of the halfway farm, I haven’t completely let go of it. I think it’s probably still in the works somewhere, I’ll just get there a different way than I thought. I may just be doing some globe-trotting first.

Long story short, this is why the blog has changed. The direction of my life has (just kind of) changed, and my priorities have gone through a continental shift. That’s why I’m so sure I’ll be doing adventuring. Cause it’ll be a close scrape to afford horseshoeing school and a long haul to Montana. But it’s coming. The Adventure Continues.


Mongolia 4

This will be my last post for Outreach, I think. And even though it’ll cover three full weeks, it probably won’t be that long. Then, to finally wrap up this saga, There’ll be one more in the chain after this, and then you’ll be up to speed! Won’t that be nice?

Our last legs in Mongolia were spent in Zhunhaara.

As an aside, I know my spellings of Mongolian cities vary a lot. That’s because I’m pretty much just spelling them phonetically, as close to what I’ve seen in English as possible. I apologize for my lack of accuracy.

Zhunhaara is a small town to the north west of UB, and it’s the headquarters for Tribal Bridge, which is the organization we went through. These two pictures are our building and the outdoor kitchen the guys built on the first day that we did all our cooking in.

We did a lot of prayer walking during our three weeks in Zhunhaara. I’m only going to tell you about one of them, we did so many. The first week we were there, we did work projects. This picture of the building is from before we washed all the windows and the doors (they had brick mortar on them), and before the sidewalk at the front door was poured.

That first week we also weeded the back yard, which was growing sunflowers, carrots, radishes, watermelons, pumpkins, and lots of potatoes. And we painted the deck. Those decks actually took us the full three weeks to paint cause we kept running out of one color or the other.

The last two weeks we spent teaching English classes. We taught kids in the morning (split into beginner and advanced classes), and adults at night. We weren’t able to share the Gospel any in Zhunhaara, unless it came up naturally in conversation, because we kind of felt like we were being spied upon, and we didn’t want to ruin opportunities in the future.

But our English students were really fun.


We went to the market at least once, and sometimes up to three times per day buying our meals, and naturally we bought a lot of ice cream, because a fresh, soft-serve cone is only 15¢ there. You should be jealous. Stuff was good.


We went to the same church the whole time we were there. I think we went four times. I shared my testimony once, and once, some other missionaries came through during the week, and left everyone in the church some chocolate.

I’m really skimming over a lot, though I promise this section of outreach was definitely not as dull as I’m making it seem. For one thing, it was here the thing happened that makes me so sure I’ll be doing some more adventuring in the future, which I PROMISE I will tell you about in the very next post.

These next few pictures are from our last day of English class.

We were intending to go back to UB a few days early, and say hi to the Ger District church again, but we had no place to stay, so we ended up staying in Zhunhaara two days longer than we had planned. We made good use of it, though, and I’m glad we did. On our first extra night, we went down to a park by the railroad station to play with the kids down there. That was fun, and as you can see, the kids were all kinds of adorable.

On our second extra day, we took a prayer walk to the small Buddhist temple near the market place. Sadly, I have no  pictures of that. But anyway, we had gone in and prayed in the courtyard and around the prayer wheels and things, and were almost ready to leave when a man came in who walked with a limp and used a crutch. All of us stood up, but I started stressing out a little cause I knew I was supposed to pray for him. So even though we had no translator, I got C to walk over with me, and was able to use sign language enough to figure out which leg was injured and to sort of get permission to put my hand on his knee and pray for him. I didn’t watch, cause I had my eyes closed, but C and M were, and they said as soon as I said “amen,” and took my hand off his knee, the man looked startled, and looked at his knee kind of surprised, and then they said as we were leaving that his whole family had broken into smiles, and M used the words “awe” and “wonder” to describe how they were staring at us as we left. So I can’t tell you for sure what happened, but something did.

We left the next day at 2:30 in the morning, and walked to the train station with our bags, and took the night train to UB. Here we all in all our glory. I’m stuffed into the luggage compartment, cause it was 3 in the morning and why not? C, in the right of the picture, managed to stuff himself into it after I got out. Again, why not?

The train at 3 in the morning.

Once we got to UB, it was straight to the airport and a sad goodbye.

L to R: Back row: Enkush, C, Tumero, B, J, B, Nara. Front Row: M, me, K, and L on the floor.

I WILL be going back to Mongolia someday, hopefully not too long from now. I hope you enjoyed the journey with me. It’s not over yet: the adventure continues…