Horses and Horse Lovers Giving Back.
As horsemen, many of us are privileged to have horses in our daily lives. We understand the unique bond that develops between a human and his/her equine partner. Whether you are a parent who’s child has the horse bug, or one with a child who has a handicap, and you’ve seen their eyes light up on the back of a horse then you know the unspoken bond.
Today while checking my e-mail, there was a notice from one of the Linked-in horse groups I belong to. It was about horses helping returning veterans with PTSD and TBI
After spending quite a bit of time there, I began to hear the same rhetoric that parents used to share with the volunteers at the handicap children’s riding project in our county.
My Appaloosa gelding, Frosty, and I volunteered to participate in the “Project Ride Program.” It was the late 1980’s and therapeutic riding was just beginning to surface. The program was organized as an offshoot of our county 4-H horse clubs, and the organizer needed good reliable horses. Frost had never done this sort of thing, but he taught my children to ride from the time they were toddlers. He always took special care when they were little beginners.
I was a little skeptical at first. These parents and children were not familiar with horses, and some had never seen or touched one before. Many of the children had to be hoisted on to the horses and were unable to master the reins. I lead my stoic horse and a volunteer was posted on either side of the young riders to stabilize them. Riders changed every half hour. Our first session lasted three hours, and we worked with five children.
It was a joy to see a child’s eyes light up and their confidence grow. Frosty loved it as much as I did. As months passed, he became a favorite among the expanding pool of riders. Frosty was one of the few mounts that would allow a child with braces to experience the joy of riding. He just seemed to sense the need and vulnerability of the child on his back. He carried children with heavy metal braces on both legs while they bounced against his sides as if the riders were beautiful little butterflies perched on his saddle that he didn’t want to dislodge
Frosty left this world in the fall of 1991 at the age of twenty-four. Less than a week after his passing, cards began arriving from children and parents who shared his past four years and also felt his loss.
Saratoga War Horse Project is a unique twist on the horse and wounded vet experience. Many of the programs out there give returning vets a chance to experience the peace, trust, and love of an equine friend. The difference at Saratoga War Horse is the wounded warriors are giving a second chance to the horses they are partnered with.
I hope you will go to this link. Read the moving stories and take in the videos. Please come back to comment on the link provided.
Note: The Dream Catcher is the work of Sandy Shipley the illustrator for “Frosty and the Nightstalker.”