It all began in 1990. Growing up in Amarillo, Ashley found horses a welcome escape from her troubled teenage years. She took refuge in the riding arena or on the trail where she found joy working with her three quarter horses, “Tinker,” “TD” and “JD”. A day came, however, when life became too overwhelming. She didn’t know where to turn for the answers and contemplated taking her life. Cut to the core, lost for any option, desperate and exhausted she looked up to heaven and asked God to get her out of the mess her life was in. As she prayed, she felt a warmth wash over her outstretched hands and a peace came over her. She felt His presence. She felt His comfort. It was in that moment, she knew God had drawn near to her, and that His strength would see her through everything, though she couldn’t have imagined the journey that was about to begin.
God put it on her heart to move away from home, and start a fresh life; and although it was difficult to leave, that’s exactly what she did. The only condition of the move away was she couldn’t take her beloved horses with her, and the thought of leaving them behind was unbearable. They had been her friends, her confidants, her loves. When it seemed like everything else was spinning out of control, her horses were there for her. It had been those quiet times with her horses, when God had used them to save her from ending her life. Though she was heartbroken to leave, she entrusted her father to find each of them a good home, and she headed south–she couldn’t even bear to tell them good-bye. What she couldn’t have known, as she headed down to College Station, was that God had a plan in motion to use her life trials and struggles to minister to others many years later.
Her passion for horses was rekindled in 2009, when she volunteered at a horse facility near where she and John were living. Being around the horses again brought her tremendous joy, and she often thought about how much she missed her horses. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a horse again?” she mused. Around Christmas of that year, she and John were asked to tend to the ranch and animals while the owners visited family out of town for the holidays. It was on one of those brisk, December days, alone with the horses, when God put the desire into their hearts to help others through the healing gift of a horse. She didn’t know the ‘how’ or the ‘when’ of any of it, but she knew God’s timing would be perfect.
The coming years would be filled with trials and disappointments where she would often wonder if the dream would ever come to pass. Year after year, the Lord told her, “Not yet my child”, so she continued to pray and wait. Often, the Lord would remind her of when she had been the happiest and when she had experience peace in her life—it had always been when she was around horses. Those thoughts kept the desire burning, and she knew she just had to wait on God’s timing.
Devastating news came to John and Ashley when they found out Ashley could not bear children. Ashley prayed to God to take the heartache away or for him to bring about another way for them to have children. It was one of the darkest periods of Ashley's adult life. While trying to cope with lingering depression, God had her path cross with a horse that was broken in so many ways.
It was winter of 2013, John and Ashley went to look at a horse listed on Craigslist for her birthday. They were hoping that as she spent time with the horse, it would help bring healing. He was a 4-year-old dapple-gray, Saddlebred gelding, standing almost 16 hands high. They were both shocked at his condition as he looked nothing like the pictures posted online. He was painfully thin. His winter coat was partially removed by a cruel set of clippers, his right eye had only half an eyelid, his pelvic bone had been previously broken (discovered by the vet), and he was certainly a few hundred pounds underweight. Despite his physical issues, the horse was amiable and obliging to all Ashley asked of him during a short 5-minute workout on a lunge line. Ashley knew in her heart she had to take the horse. Especially since he would look at her so intently as if saying “Please take me home. Get me out of this mess!” –the same words Ashley had cried out to God so many years before. He wasn’t what she was looking for in a horse, as she’d only known quarter horses, and this one she couldn’t even ride because of all the physical trauma he’d endured. But there was something special about him for sure. John agreed. So with hips and ribs showing, an uneven gait, and half-sight in one eye, Maverick became their first rescue. Though everyone kept asking her what was she was going to do with a “broken” horse, she replied, “God had our paths cross for a reason. Maverick definitely does have a purpose in life, and God has a plan for the both of us.” And a plan, indeed! This 'beauty from brokenness' has helped Ashley overcome depression and has been there for her through other life-storms. Maverick is so in tuned with her emotions that he has taught her to leave it all at the gate and just be in the moment with him. Though Maverick is unable to be ridden because of his injuries, Ashley only needs to be in his presence to feel at peace. Ashley may have rescued Maverick but in actuality, God brought him to rescue her. During the time Ashley spent healing with Maverick, God revealed to her that she was to rescue the four legged children and use them to help heal others going through life struggles.
Now that they had their first rescue, John and Ashley needed a place to call home for Maverick and the fledgling ministry for which God had called them. As with everything, they knew they had to continue to wait on God and his timing to bring them to the right property. They had been looking for land for two years, yet never found a place that was a good fit. Finally, at the beginning of the summer of 2014, God lead them to 14 acres in Magnolia, TX, that was listed for sale. The property had once been used as a miniature horse farm and as a commercial nursery, yet was a bit rough and in need of a lot of TLC. It was a great fit for the ministry as it was close to town, had a barn and other buildings, fenced and cross-fenced, had a parking lot, a water well and dozens majestic Post Oaks covering the grounds. But despite its beautiful setting, it was well out of their price range. “If only,” they both thought. It would have been perfect. However, God was still at work—and nothing can stand in God’s way when it’s His plan.
The time had come. A couple of months later in August, Ashley was prompted to go see the property. So they planned for a time to go see it, and as soon as they stepped on the property, they knew that was where the Lord wanted them to be. Every hurdle that popped up along the way, God moved. Every time the world said "this won’t happen", God reminded them that He was in control and that all things are possible with Him. Ashley and John closed on the property in the final days of 2014 to make the dream a reality. Hope Reigns exists because of their faith in the Lord and waiting for His perfect timing.
Founded on hope and faith, Hope Reigns Ranch is a supportive and peaceful environment where broken horses, children, adults, military heroes, and families can find wholeness, belonging, and trust through the healing embrace of God’s redeeming love.