Alumni Spotlight: Burdette helping troubled youth in Texas
November 24, 2020 | Montgomery, Texas
Former Liberty University Hunt Seat equestrian rider Kendall Burdette ('19) has furthered her love for horses while sharing hope with those with special needs through her career calling, helping to run a nonprofit called Forever Faithful Ranch in Montgomery, Texas.
"I have always had a passion to serve the special needs community in various different capacities," Burdette said. "My senior year, I started volunteering at a local therapeutic riding barn in Lynchburg. After college, I went and got certified to be a therapeutic riding instructor, which led me here to Texas."
As a sophomore in January 2017, Burdette won the high medal at the fourth and final Tournament of Champions national level event that the Lady Flames competed in. She was nominated as a team captain for her junior season and won the Intermediate Flat division of the Region 4 Championships, hosted by Liberty for the first time at its Equestrian Center in February 2018 to advance to the Zone 4 Show in Greensboro, N.C.
"The success we have had is just a testament to the coaching, the staff, and the team that we have, but most of all, it's a testament to the Lord," Burdette said at that time, crediting Head Coach Suzanne Flaig and her staff for encouraging her to use her gifts to the fullest.
"She constantly was pushing us to be better riders, but she also challenged us in our faith and really to display that in the arena and outside the arena. It really is a platform that is going to prepare you for your future calling," Burdette said in an interview this month. "I can't speak highly enough about the leadership that is there now. They have spent countless hours late into the evenings, early mornings, making our first show at Liberty possible and then taking it even steps farther … to give us every opportunity that we could imagine to grow and expand as riders and individuals."
Over the summer before her senior season, Burdette worked as a youth summer intern for Faith Bible Church in Houston. That experience helped open the door for the Baltimore native to make the connections at Forever Faithful Ranch. That ministry uses therapeutic riding and equine assisted learning to help those dealing with anxiety and depression, grief and loss, self-esteem and social issues, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I am able to freely talk about the Gospel, which is incredible," Burdette said. "It's a privilege to do what I do now. It's challenged me a lot to walk with many people in crisis and it definitely takes a toll. It has pushed me to draw upon the strength of the Lord in ways that I have not before and that I can be thankful for, that it is pushing me in my faith and challenging me."
|Burdette won more than her share of blue ribbons as a Hunt Seat equestrian rider for Liberty from 2016-19.|
Forever Faithful Ranch's equine therapeutic riding serves diverse youth groups in shelter and transitional homes, recovery programs, and emotional support groups through an eight-week program that addresses topics such as trust, relationships, body language, respect, communication, and confidence.
"I have a couple different teen groups that come and ride and we talk about some of the things they're struggling with," Burdette said. "It's really just a beautiful place where the kids can come and spend time with the horses. I really believe in the therapeutic benefits of working with horses, but our No. 1 priority is when they walk through the gate, they know that it is God first. God loves them and cares about them and there is no struggle and challenge that they're going through that God as not already gone before them to take care of."
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