Nine-year-old Sarah Meachan's love for riding horses came to a halt after a tornado ripped through Peppers Ranch, killing three horses and injuring seven others.
Sarah, her mother, Jill Meachan, her three siblings and a friend survived the May 24 tornado in a storm shelter in the garage of a house under construction on the 240-acre ranch, a foster care community where abused and neglected children live with families and are often adopted.
The house was damaged, but everyone in the shelter was safe. So were 22 other children, eight parents and a trim carpenter on the ranch. But the tornado caused nearly $1 million in damages.
Sarah was 6 years old when she fell in love with riding horses. Her interest wavered after the tornado at the state's first foster care facility of its kind.
Adding to her dilemma was that the director of the horse program left shortly after the tornado.
“She was sad,” Sarah's mother said. “She didn't want any part of it.”
The horse barn that was destroyed in the storm has been rebuilt. The injured horses have healed, and five new horses now live on the ranch 1.6 miles south of State Highway 33 and Western Avenue.
Three white crosses stand at the graves of the horses — Sonny, Meg and Freckles. The children visit there frequently.
Back in the saddle
As the anniversary approaches Thursday, Sarah is back to riding.
Jill Meachan said her daughter is spending a lot of time at the horse barn.
The ranch is looking good a year after that dreadful evening. About 95 percent of the damages have been repaired.
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