Shishana Rourke was born on the island of Saint Lucia in the West Indies on the eastern side of the Caribbean. She is the ninth child of a total of 21 siblings. (That’s not a typo.) She came to the United States at the age of four months, via an open adoption by a couple in Alaska.
“The adoption process began before I was born,” Shishana explained. “I have a sister they adopted from India.
“My adoptive father is from Maine and my adoptive mother is from Minnesota. They met in Idaho and ended up backpacking around Europe. Mom had a car and dad always wanted to visit Alaska, so they made the drive and got married there. Mom still lives in Alaska today, but dad is in Israel.”
All this information rolls off Shishana’s tongue as if she’s reciting a typical background and a normal coming-of-age tale.
“None of it sounds strange to me,” she laughs. “The only time I feel a little weird is when I think of the ‘playing’ we did in Alaska. Like, my mom would push us out the door and tell us to go follow a moose around. That was weird.”
Certainly, following a moose was a bit out of the ordinary for a play activity but it opened the young girl’s mind to the magic of animals as well as nature. It also fanned the flames of her growing sense of adventure. Today, she says, “I rescue whatever comes my way and needs help.”
Horses were giant magnets for Shishana, who began riding lessons at eight. She begged for her own horse and saved every coin crossing her path. She was 10 when she purchased a pregnant mare, training the colt after it was born.
“I was home-schooled,” Shishana continued. “I loved it because it gave me extra time to work with animals and to travel. I even went to Maine during that period and jumped show horses.”
Shishana was recruited at 18 by a leading Montana university to join their elite equine program. They accepted a maximum of 30 students. While there, she met Linda Gordon of Fossil Gate Farm in Argyle.
“I did my internship there,” Shishana recalled. “Later, I found myself with horses and nowhere to keep them. Luckily, an opportunity came up for me to get the ranch. I named it Nine Spur to represent me as the ninth child in my family and Spur after a volcano that’s part of the Ring of Fire (Spurr).
“I started out using the ranch as a breeding facility for show horses but, before long, rescue became a huge part of the picture.
“A lot of people can’t rescue,” Shishana said. “It’s too emotionally draining. I’m good at it because I can hold both my emotions and my perspective in balance. I can rescue and rehab these horses, and then decide to put them into one of my ranch programs or sell them. I have a broad social media presence, where I keep their stories in front of people. They develop fans who feel a vested interest in them, and some have sold to Switzerland and other countries.
“People call and tell me about horses needing help and I also run ads saying I’ll take horses they can no longer care for. Some have been in horrible shape.
“Sometimes I spend hours at a kill pen. I pick out certain horses, get on them, and assess them. I often buy one or more. I call these my ‘project’ horses because, potentially, they’ll make money and help support the ranch.”
Horses are the heart of Nine Spur, but there’s also a breeding program for toy Australian Shepards. There’s Hank, the rescued Water Buffalo and Zebu, a miniature exotic cow native to the desert, and more.
The ranch offers riding lessons for three-year-olds and up, birthday parties, photo sessions with “unicorns,” educational tours for families, and even swimming with Hank.
Shishana turned 30 on Valentine’s Day and she recently married native Texan Noah Barnhill. They’re expecting a baby boy in approximately four months. How will this affect Shishana’s work with the horses and Nine Spur?
“I’ll be back at the ranch 1,000%, with him on my back, by the time he’s one week old,” she laughed.
“I have a magical life. It would have been a million times different if I hadn’t been adopted. I’m grateful for the adoption and for the parents who encouraged us to follow our dream. I followed it. I live it. And I love it!”
Nine Spur Ranch
216 Pecan Acres Lane
Argyle, TX 76226