Until Saturday night I had little to zero experience with horses. When I say little, I mean I chaperoned a field trip to Giant City Stables and I took part in a trip to the stables when Sam was in the three-week trauma resiliency program with This Able Veteran.
Saturday I became friends with Lovie. We were so close at one point she was licking my neck. I did not flinch.
Tonight I visited the War Horses for Veterans Ranch in Stilwell, Kansas. The ranch, owned by Andy and Patricia Brown, is simply put: amazing. Andy, a passionate man with a heart for Veterans, has developed a place, a safe place, where Veterans can bond with horses. Along with his wife, and staff, they provide equine based networking.
Veterans can apply to attend a three-day networking experience. The Veteran, if selected, will have a chance to work with horses in a safe-space, country environment with trained professionals.
Aside from working through tears, I have to say I felt peace and comfort on the ranch.
I find myself smiling as I type that, but for someone who just started camping recently, and someone who is mostly outdoors for softball, there was something calming about being on a ranch surrounded with my new network, my new friends, and fellow caregivers.
What is unique about Andy and Patricia’s program is that after the three-day experience, a service of networking is provided and offered for Veterans. In the spirit of community, there is support for the Veteran “once the uniform comes off.”
I love that.
We often think about the helpers, right? Just like Fred Rogers suggested. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are the helpers.”
I think Andy, Patricia, their staff, and many sponsors and donors are the ones who are helping our Veterans.
Our Veterans have been the helpers. The heroes, the warriors, the wounded, the brave, the mighty, the strong.
Our Veterans (and their families/caregivers) need the support.
That’s just what this program does.
Veterans who have gone through this program say, “your anxiety goes away.” There is no cost, and there’s no prior experience with horses needed.
I had some tears speaking tonight, but I also gained confidence and a new experience with new memories.
Oh, and I had some of the best barbeque in town, too.
Give the website a gander. Learn about this program. You’ll be inspired and you’ll be moved.
I know I was.
Lovie, me, and Kelley Slagle. She knows some stuff. I admire her for her work and her dedication to Veterans and their caregivers.