We first learned of Ann Eaker, national champion horse rider, in January 2016. Horse riding was a childhood passion that has continued to evolve into life’s purpose for Eaker. Shortly after our introduction to Eaker, she and husband Ray found themselves headed down a new path. One that would take them away from neighborhood living in Strathy Hall and lead them to a horse barn built by local realtor, Ron Gizzi. Gizzi poured his heart and soul into this barn which he built for his daughter. There was no expense spared nor attention to detail. Slat by slat, this beautiful horse barn, positioned at the front of the property, was built with love. The legacy of that love will now continue through the Eaker family and Grace Stables.
The Eakers were not in pursuit of a new house, let alone a horse barn. Ann admits she has always boarded her horses. Up until now, she has never been able to step a few feet away from her back porch and be in the presence of her animals. Despite it not being the plan, it has all worked out. The home in Strathy sold in two days which flew open the doors for relocating to the new property and starting a new venture. In April 2016 they closed on the property and by August the barn welcomed Daisy, Ace, Sheza and Gatsby their horses. Their new farmhouse was built by Michael Roberts, local builder. "Working full time and taking care of the barn and managing the horse’s needs has been hard work. I am learning a lot every day. But, I am hoping at some point to see this as my life’s work," said Eaker.
Eaker believes the opportunity to now teach lessons on this beautiful property is a gift from God. The grace that has poured out on their family since the loss of their son has been life changing. The horse riding community has always been a support for Eaker and now that community is a little closer to home and continues to grow. In August, when the horses arrived on the property, so did the establishment of Grace Stables. A name given for an unexpected gift. "God’s grace has poured out on us, He has placed certain people in our path at the right time, it has all fallen into place," said Eaker.
The land brings a new-found peace to Eaker and she hopes it will bring that to others. As she continues to train and ride, her focus is now on training others. Eaker has qualified for the national final competition in St. Louis with horses Daisy and Gatsby. She is sharing the teaching load with part-timer Savannah Smith, who moved here from Charlotte, North Carolina about six months ago. She has been an asset in working with more advanced students. Darci Flowers, local resident and friend, also contributes to teaching students who are more on the beginner level. "I’ve met other people with horses in Richmond Hill. Up until I moved here we trained outside of the area. It has been good networking and meeting people that share the same passion. I look forward to meeting more," said Eaker.
Watching the students flourish has made all the hard work worth it for Eaker. Ultimately, her hope is this land, Grace Stables, and the horses will impact the lives of those that come. "There might be some kid someday that needs a place to go. If I can help them, then that is what I want to do. When I pray about it, this place is about letting the kids see the beauty of what God has given us. I want it to be a place of refuge for a kid that needs help. I see this as my new-found purpose. It might not be me, but it might be a horse that they can pour their hearts out to," said Eaker.
Moving forward, Eaker has big dreams for Grace Stables. She is excited to announce there will be summer camps geared towards the fundamentals of learning basic horse care, grooming, tacking, and basic riding skills. These camps will be giving those interested in learning or reconnecting with an old hobby the ability to experience a one-on-one experience.
"My ultimate vision for this place in 5-10 years would be to double the size of the stall capacity, add on to the barn, be able to have local shows here, and have at least 40 students a week. I have the desire to teach and make this a place for fun days that include summer fun games and a place for families to come and connect," said Eaker.
The significance of the barn and what it means moving forward for Eaker is priceless. Although it means hard work, it also means influencing and impacting the lives of others. "I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. My story is God's story. Just by the definition of grace—God meets us in our every need even though we don't deserve it. And he does it through his people," said Eaker.
For those interested in learning more about Grace Stables, summer camp opportunities or boarding locally, you can find out more at the Grace Stables Facebook Page.