By Deanna Kay Phillips
For my last article I decided to to interview Michelle McClain-Kruse on April 23, 2018, who has had success with her own business. She has been a major influence in my life. Whether it was teaching me more about horses or declaring herself my college mom, she has been there for it all. Her business is Thunder Rode, Inc. It provides a place of safety for those with disabilities to ride and form bonds of trust with the horse they ride. Most of the article will be questions that I asked and her response to the questions.
When I asked her why she started this job/business, she replied, “I helped start Thunder Rode to answer a need for individuals with special needs that wanted to ride horses and do horse activities all riding season. I love people and horses and they belong together.” She did admit the she had a lot of inspiration along the way. Her great-grandfather, George Harms, gave her the first pony, Angel. Her dad used to have horses and would help get saddled up, when she was little. She stated that she used to ride whenever anyone asked her. Her friend, Nicholle Phillips, shares a love of horses and taught her the value of the relationship, with or without riding.
She started Thunder Rode in 2006, and she has no business partners. It started with an organizational meeting. She had horses suitable for trail riding and from there, she worked with them to become suitable for therapy. She stated that working with horses is a passion. She believes that horses are for everyone, not just certain classes of people. They are all around us, in pastures, in art, in movies, in our dreams.
She credits her friend Nicholle Phillips as a major help with starting this organization. Thunder Rode would not exist without Nicholle. She keeps it going when Michelle is not available. She stated, “If I ever get hit by a bus, she knows everything about the program, the participants and she can get the job done. She’s amazing.” High praise!
When asked what gives her the most satisfaction with her job, Michelle said that she loves watching someone work with a horse and seeing confidence blossom whenever she/he does something successfully. Her business has changed much since she first started it, with the focus shifting and trying to balance work and family. Michelle admitted that it is a challenge trying to balance her family with her work. She said that her children are learning responsibility by having to do chores around the farm. They have also learned that horses don’t live forever, but they love the animals with all their hearts, no matter what.
My final question was what keeps her going when times are tough? She simply replied, “God. I feel like He’s my driving force. Always, when times get tough, the right people come along at the right times, to pick me up, dust me off and send me back out there.”
I have personally been involved in Thunder Rode for many years helping out wherever Michelle may need me on that day. I have mostly been a volunteer, which some people might think is boring because all one does is lead a horse around the pen, but it is rewarding. As a volunteer we can interact with the riders and listen to their stories, or how their day or week was. The lessons are never boring, and there is always a certain element of fun throughout the hour. I have also been a student in the Saturday morning Youth Group. This is for younger people who have troubles concentrating or have anxiety.
Deanna Kay Phillips is a student at Mabel-Canton High School. She is one of seven area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 19th year.