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Sermon from the mount

Pierce preaches to Two Rivers inmates through breaking wild horse
Jayati Ramakrishnan

East Oregonian

Published on September 12, 2018 4:18PM

Todd Pierce rides Vixen the mare after she has been saddled for the first time. The exercise was part of Pierce’s sermon for Riding High Ministries.

Staff photo by Jayati Ramakrishnan

Todd Pierce rides Vixen the mare after she has been saddled for the first time. The exercise was part of Pierce’s sermon for Riding High Ministries.

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Inmates pray at the end of a sermon in the Two Rivers Correctional Institution yard.

Staff photo by Jayati Ramakrishnan

Inmates pray at the end of a sermon in the Two Rivers Correctional Institution yard.

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Todd Pierce talks to inmates at Two Rivers Correctional Institution as he works to break Vixen, an untrained mare.

Staff photo by Jayati Ramakrishnan

Todd Pierce talks to inmates at Two Rivers Correctional Institution as he works to break Vixen, an untrained mare.

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Inmates Sal Rojas and Juan Castillo listen to a sermon from Riding High Ministries at TRCI.

Staff photo by Jayati Ramakrishnan

Inmates Sal Rojas and Juan Castillo listen to a sermon from Riding High Ministries at TRCI.

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Pastor Todd Pierce hugs Keegan Thompson after Pierce gave a sermon at Two Rivers Correctional Institution.

Staff photo by Jayati Ramakrishnan

Pastor Todd Pierce hugs Keegan Thompson after Pierce gave a sermon at Two Rivers Correctional Institution.

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The Brown Family musicians from South Carolina accompanied Pastor Todd Pierce for his sermon at Two Rivers Correctional Institution.

Staff photo by Jayati Ramakrishnan

The Brown Family musicians from South Carolina accompanied Pastor Todd Pierce for his sermon at Two Rivers Correctional Institution.

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Though Todd Pierce is used to breaking horses as he preaches sermons, he didn’t have to fight too hard with this one.

Pierce and his company, Riding High Ministries, was in Umatilla on Tuesday at Two Rivers Correctional Institution.

About 60 inmates from Two Rivers watched quietly as Pierce worked with Vixen, an unbroken mare. Within 30 minutes the horse went from having never been ridden before to patiently carrying Pierce around the corral.

Pierce travels around Oregon and Idaho presenting sermons, using the exercise of breaking an unbroken horse as a metaphor for how people can change their own conduct.

Each time he does a sermon, he uses a new horse, one that’s never been saddled or ridden. Vixen, now owned by a family in Hermiston, was rescued from a kill pen two years ago.

Vixen showed a little hesitation at first, but quickly grew comfortable with Pierce and allowed him to ride her.

Pierce said he was surprised by the outcome — in most cases, he said, he gets bucked off several times.

But he said it didn’t take away from the lesson.

“Two years ago this horse was starving, abandoned, had no future,” he said. “Someone came along and said, that one’s mine. Today, someone’s coming and saying to you, ‘You’re mine, I’m going to love you,’” Pierce said.

Inmate Sal Rojas watched, rapt, as Pierce rode the horse calmly around the corral.

“I thought he gave a perfect sermon,” Rojas said. “I just liked how he took his time telling the story. It gives me hope.”

Donna Niemeyer and her daughter Emilie Stockton own Vixen, having rescued her about two years ago.

Niemeyer said Vixen is a gentle horse by nature, but was surprised by how quickly she took to being saddled.

“Nobody’s been on her back,” she said. “It’s just shocking.”

Niemeyer said they have rescued several other animals, as well.

“Every animal deserves to have a home,” she said.

Pierce likened the struggle for the horse, and for the rider, to the things people have to struggle with as they try to improve.

“I see so many people that just do what they can to stay comfortable,” he said.

All the inmates, he said, are capable of being more than what they are now.

“You’re being asked to do things normal men can’t do,” he said. “There’s men who go back out into the world and survive. I believe you guys will go back out and be world changers.”











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