The sound of grazing horses fills the air at Reigning Grace Ranch (RGR) in Rio Verde. Here in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, dusty roads stretch for miles through the Arizona desert, one of which leads to a horse sanctuary a quarter mile from the long stretch of East Rio Verde Drive.
Pastor Bobby Brewer is dressed in jeans and boots like he’s already worked hard on his first day on the job as the new campus pastor.
“We regularly tell people to wear boots that they don’t mind getting dirty because chances are that’s what will happen,” he said.
Brewer is the newest addition to RGR’s roster, making him the ranch’s fifth full-time staff member. His primary duty is to oversee the purposes of the Ministry of Nonprofit 501(c)(3) Horse Rescue which occasionally conducts worship services.
“Right now we meet monthly on the second Friday of each month, but our goal is to move to a weekly service,” said Brewer, who describes the worship service as a “cowboy church,” with a country-western touch.
Prior to assuming the role of RGR campus pastor, Brewer served as pastor at North Chapel Bible Church as well as Scottsdale Bible Church (SBC).
“In 2020, we started having discussions about bringing North Chapel back into the fold of SBC’s Fountain Hills campus,” Brewer explained.
He led outdoor worship services at the RGR as a guest pastor and expressed interest in working there year-round. But before moving into full-time work at RGR, Brewer wanted to help set up the new SBC campus.
“After prayer and counsel, our council of elders and our church, feeling led by the Holy Spirit to do so, voted to merge back into SBC,” Brewer said. “In addition to ministry resources for children and youth, we felt we would be better off together. We thought it would be good for the city and the Kingdom.”
Having worked to merge the two congregations into a fully renovated facility that was first commissioned in 1974, SBC had its first service on Palm Sunday and is now fully staffed with a children and youth ministry and offers two Sunday worship services.
“We’re in a pioneering phase right now,” Brewer said, discussing his plans to RGR. In addition to preaching and leading Bible studies, Brewer is excited to start a Sunday school this summer and to be involved in coordinating volunteers for RGR’s equine therapy program.
“There seems to be something special about being outside at the ranch and working with horses and other farm animals that are good for the soul,” Brewer said. “I want to help out and let Fountain Hills know that there are amazing volunteer opportunities here.”
Founded by Chris and Amanda Moore in 2009, RGR became a sanctuary for unwanted and abused horses, most of which were destined for slaughter. RGR’s original mission was not just to provide shelter, but to nurture horses to a healthy state, physically and psychologically.
Soon after, at-risk children were introduced to horses where they began to learn the basic skills and principles of riding. Since then it has grown organically to include a wide range of farms and services. Today, 80 horses from the ranch participate in the equine therapy program.
“People are drawn here because of the animals and wonder ‘why is this place so different? ‘” RGR co-founder Amanda Moore said.
Over the years, she and her husband have welcomed veterans, at-risk foster children, youth with special needs, and students to participate in their horse therapy program.
The educational aspect of the ranch goes beyond helping people with special needs. As previously reported by The Times, RGR programs cater to the needs of universities and technical schools, including the Pima Medical Institute and Scottsdale Community College. Veterinary assistant programs also appreciated the opportunity to work with large animals on the ranch.
Moore tells of a young girl admitted to hospital who attempted suicide three times in the past year. The girl started attending equine therapy sessions at the RGR when her counselor contacted Moore, letting her know that the ranch was the only thing she was getting.
“She’s gone from all black to normal clothes, and is here riding three days a week, working with other kids on the ranch,” Moore said.
Another participant in equine therapy is a first responder who suffers from PTSD.
“She said to me, ‘I just want you to know that I feel like a wild horse with one foot in captivity and one foot in the wild, and any moment I’m going to run. “”
Moore took her to the paddock to meet the horses and almost immediately a wild mare approached the woman and continued to follow her around the paddock.
“It’s not very normal,” Moore said. “But these horses reflect our inner selves and are very honest.”
Moore and Brewer witnessed countless meaningful connections between individuals and animals at RGR. They are enthusiastic about the community participating in the worship service, enjoying the animals and, if interested, volunteering their time.
“We are called to be good stewards of the Earth,” Brewer said. “We must dominate the animal kingdom, which includes leadership, protection and shepherding.”
Moore is eager to include Brewer in their sanctuary and help them in their mission to help others.
“With Bobby’s leadership, spiritual guidance and teaching, this is just the next step for the ranch.”