Sandy Kirby runs a riding and training barn that doubles as an equine therapy center

Life has thrown Sandy Kirby a few curves over the last several years.

In fact, one might say health wise, she has survived against very strong odds. Some of her doctors have even called her a walking miracle. On more than one occasion Sandy has beaten the odds to transform Sunshine Acres Ranch into a full-time ministry and apprentice program. The 127-acre ranch is home to a variety of animals, including horses, goat, sheep and three peacocks. Using her skills as a certified equine therapist and licensed minister, Sandy has transformed Sunshine Acre Ranch into a thriving hands-on operating ranch. From a personal perspective, the animals, especially the horses, hold a much deeper and personal relationship for Sandy as she credits them for helping her not only survive serious health issues but recover and flourish in her ministry calling.

Sandy, a dental hygienist in her early professional career, moved with her family to the farm in 1986 to allow Sandy to raise and train horses. She has been a member of the American Quarter Horse Association since 1976 and this farm provided the ideal place for her to spend time and strengthen her love of horses. Sandy survived her first brush with calamity when she was struck by lightning near her barn. She was thrown 30 feet. Her doctors said her heart stopped momentarily, and she suffered eye problems for several months after the strike. In 2001 Kirby was involved in a serious auto accident which took her months to recover from. Doctors were not sure she would recover from the accident, but she proved them wrong by getting back on a horse and using that as her therapy. In the beginning she had to be tied in the saddle, but she never gave up and kept riding and getting better.

Then in 2003, Kirby was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Her doctors second guessed trying to remove the tumor with surgery, and even doubted chemotherapy would help. Sandy once again called on her faith to guide her through dark times and once again beat the odds.

“It’s a daily walk we have,” Sandy said. “We choose. If I get up and get out there and start walking around, I find there’s so much to be thankful for.”

Equine rehabilitation is a large part of Sunshine Acres Ranch’s operations. Sandy takes a practical approach to the process. Individual treatment and recovery plans are developed with a detailed understanding of each horse’s injury and the principles of the disciplines needed to have a successful rehabilitation. Sandy works with the owner’s veterinarian and trainer to bring the horse back to full health, physically and mentally.

At any one time, 40 to 60 horses call Sunshine Acres Ranch Home. That number includes horses owned by Kirby, rehabilitation patients and boarders. Other equine services provided are lessons, training, breeding and birthday parties. The horseback riding also provides therapy for autistic children and other children who may be considered “at risk.”

“We even take in some rescue horses from time to time,” Sandy said. “We provide a safe environment for each animal on the ranch. We have an obligation to them as well as our visitors. It is all part of why we are here.”

The current goat herd in approximately 40 and growing rapidly. The goats are part of a petting zoo Sandy provides to youngsters who visit the farm. The 60-plus sheep on the farm keep the pastures and fence rows cleared. No mowing required.

“The kids really love the petting zoo,” Sandy said. “So many of them are just intimated by the size of the horses. So, we start them out small with the goats, and let them work up, if they want. We also milk the goats and I’ve learned to make yogurt.”

The animals on Sunshine Acres Ranch are only half of the equation. The other half is the ministries Sandy facilitates through the ranch. She is an area representative for the International Student Exchange and has established an apprentice program on the ranch. Probably the service Sandy is most proud of is the Romance Roundpen Ministry (based on the large round indoor riding facility). On the third Saturday of each month the ranch hosts the Roundpen Ministry and visitors can enjoy free food, fellowship, horse riding and hayrides.

“I have been blessed in so many ways,” Sandy said. “I have survived the odds on more that one occasion and I truly believe it is to minister through Sunshine Acres Ranch. I have been given the unique opportunity to work with and through animals to minister to people. Not many can say that.”

http://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/SKirby-1024x637.jpghttp://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/SKirby-150x150.jpgLarry BurchfieldArkansas NeighborsNeighborsArkansas,Equine,horse rescue,Horses,Kirby,Romance,Sandy Kirby,Sunshine Acres RanchSandy Kirby runs a riding and training barn that doubles as an equine therapy center Life has thrown Sandy Kirby a few curves over the last several years. In fact, one might say health wise, she has survived against very strong odds. Some of her doctors have even called her...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma