Two veteran thoroughbred horses from William Woods University have moved to New Mexico to help war veterans.
Glory Road (JJ), 15, and Rampart, 18, are in exciting new careers with the therapeutic program, Healing America’s Heroes (HAH). The nonprofit organization provides healing opportunities to veterans and their families and helps them enrich and create a meaningful quality of life.
The goal of Healing America’s Heroes is to help veterans help themselves by developing and enhancing skills, achieving greater self-reliance, promoting healing and restoration, and empowering veterans.
The grand opening pilot program runs through Sept. 20 in Plaza Blanca, New Mexico, and includes meals, tent lodging and therapeutic programs for four Vietnam veterans. Separate sessions will be held for female veterans and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is a win-win situation for our wonderful veteran equines, and for the soldiers who participate in the HAH program,” said Susie Ouderkirk, WWU hunter/jumper instructor. “Our horses are enjoying the country life on a beautiful ranch in northern New Mexico and giving trail rides and peace of mind to those who went to war for us.”
Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, president of William Woods, and her husband, Eddie, made the initial connection with Healing America’s Heroes, which is
located near their New Mexico home.
“We are happy to support such a good cause and give new purpose to horses that have served our students well, but were ready for retirement. JJ and Rampart will provide relief for veterans and their families in a natural environment, where they will be groomed, played with and ridden on a beautiful ranch.”
According to a University of California-San Francisco/San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center study, 40 percent of U.S. Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a mental disorder or related behavioral problem.
“Studies show that if left untreated, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as other mental concerns including depression and alcohol and drug abuse leads to chronic mental illnesses that threaten the soldiers, their families and their communities.”
The horses donated by William Woods will play a large role in the rehabilitation of veterans and their families, who are welcomed at no charge, as well.
Healing America’s Heroes helps veterans and their families develop problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, leisure skills, and build confidence through adventure and recreational experiences such as horsemanship, horseback rides, fly fishing, fly tying, trail and guided tours, hiking and camping, barbeques and picnics, and skills-building workshops.
Participants are encouraged to attend four group skills-building sessions. These sessions will cover topics such as seeking safety, which builds safety skills to manage symptoms of PTSD (post- traumatic stress syndrome) and substance abuse.
Healing America’s Heroes also is working with the local community to provide a growing variety of therapeutic experiences such as animal husbandry, wool weaving, farm operations, fish farm/hatchery and tire recycling.
A Vietnam veteran, Eddie Crain, is founder and president of Healing America’s Heroes. He is excited about receiving the William Woods horses and very appreciative. He believes their new “retirement home” will benefit the horses as much as the veterans.
“Rampart and JJ both are doing well, and they have acclimated to the high elevation. I believe the rest and exercise have been good for them. JJ will be used for our very beginners and Rampant will be used for our more experienced riders. They both have a job and a good home for life.”
Jennie Petterson, chair of the equestrian studies division, agrees that the move to New Mexico was good for the horses.
“Both Rampart and JJ had been wonderful school horses, but were ready for a slower and easier lifestyle. As show horses ready for retirement, the combination of steady but light work and lots of turnout was just what we wanted for them.”