Healing and growth are common themes in girls’ experiences at Taking the Reins. Board member, Gail Mills not only enjoys witnessing that, but also feels she can relate to girls at TTR on a deep level. Mills’ mother died when she was young. She says one of the most therapeutic things that her grieving father did for her at the time was taking her to the barn.

“Experiencing that kind of loss at such a vulnerable age helps me understand what our girls are going through now,” Mills said. “Everyone has a story. You can come from the best circumstances and still be challenged.”

Gail’s favorite part about being a Taking the Reins board member is watching the girls grow and evolve their love for horses. She has been a quintessential “horse girl” since she can remember. She even joked that her brother was her “first horse” because of how she would ride around on his back. She has a special fondness to TTR alum Trace’s story. Trace came from adverse circumstances and used her strength to prosper.

“Many of these girls have never touched a horse,” Mills excitedly shared. “So, they don’t even know the passion within them until they come to Taking the Reins.”

Her lifelong passion for horses is how she got connected with Taking the Reins in the first place. Mills was boarding her horse at a local stable when she met executive director Jane Haven, who was also spending time at the same facility. After a few conversations, Mills was eager to be involved. Although it was the horses who brought her in, Mills – like many others – is most impressed by the vast programming that Taking the Reins provides. Mills comments often on the scholastic and academic growth she sees in girls.

“The confidence and exposure they gain through Taking the Reins open their eyes to so many different opportunities,” Mills stated. “Some of these girls grow up with no thoughts of college, or anything post high school. But Taking the Reins shows them how they can access these things.” Trace’s story, which Gail frequently referenced, reaffirms that statement.

Much like the girls, Taking the Reins has also shown Mills new things about herself. She sponsors TTR horse Maggie and has recently started to compete with her at local shows. Mills and Maggie are participating in disciplines that are different than anything she’s done before.

“I hope the girls are inspired by me trying new things and still learning alongside the horses, Mills reflected.

Overall, Mills’ main feeling regarding Taking the Reins is gratitude. She feels it’s an honor to serve with other board members and under the direction of Taking the Reins staff. She wants donors to feel the same confidence in donating as the girls find in the horses.