Each night of the week there are familiar casts of characters hurrying around the barn and each Thursday, you’ll find Bern and Kathy Lytle in the barn. These two can be found doing anything and everything that needs to be done. From grooming horses, to sweeping the barn and cleaning out stalls, to side walking with riders or leading horses during class. If it needs to be done, Bern and Kathy will tackle the job head-on. Their dedication to Agape programs is abundant.
The Lytles moved here in 2013. Retirement and wanting to be closer to their family brought Bern and Kathy back to Indiana from New York, where Kathy had fallen in love with volunteering at a therapeutic riding center. Just weeks before they were scheduled to move, Kathy says she was feeling reluctant. They had built a life there, they had friends there, she had her friends and the horses at the barn. What was she going to do without that time volunteering weekly? Then she found Agape, and suddenly she was ready to move. She had a new adventure waiting in Indiana, a new barn with new horses and new friends to make. Kathy says there’s no place else she would rather be.
“It’s therapeutic to me,” Kathy said. “Just being there in the environment is soothing.”
Bern was still working full time when they lived in New York, so he did not volunteer at the center with Kathy. When they moved back to Indiana, that all changed and they were able to start volunteering together.
Bern says, “We may not always be together the whole evening, but we always have common experiences to talk about and share on the way home!”
Bern has spent his life making connections with people. As a pastor, relationship building has been at the forefront of what he does. He loves getting to interact not only with the riders, but also with the Agape staff and other volunteers. In the process, he has learned a lot about horses!
“It’s been a huge learning curve, beginning with almost no knowledge of horses to at least being in ‘preschool’ now,” Bern said. “I really enjoy it!”
“It’s the best possible situation,” Kathy said. “We get to enjoy the horses and all the people that come with it.”
Bern has come to know the miracle of therapeutic riding that Kathy fell in love with in New York. He describes Agape as an “amazing tool.”
“It opens up individuals with special needs to the world around them, to challenge them to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise,” Bern said. “For some, it is a respite from their everyday lives. It’s a safe place where a child or an adult can build a relationship with the horse and the people in a very safe way they may never have anywhere else.”
Kathy says, “We love that we have time to volunteer at something we love!”
Bern and Kathy are involved at Agape in more ways than just in the barn or arena. Bern led the prayer at the Bradford Woods dedication, as well as at Breakfast for the Barn. In a way, Agape is an extension of ministry for him.
We are blessed to have so many amazing volunteers like Bern and Kathy, and we are always looking for more! If you would like to join this spectacular group of volunteers, you can find more information and fill out a volunteer application here.