Returning Freedom to Those Who Fought for Ours

In honor of the final day of Veterans Month, I share a story I wrote that appeared in the Inside the Gate magazine last month.

Veteran patients from Walter Reed Medical Center didn’t know horses would help them. Gold Star Mothers didn’t realize how equine relationships would evolve. And military families weren’t aware of local horse facilities and the joy they would bring their children. Horses Help Heroes marched in and made a difference.

Dean Tracy, a service-disabled U.S. Marine Corps veteran, established the Maryland-based 501(c)(3) non-profit Horses Help Heroes in 2016. His goal was to enrich the lives of veterans and their families through equine-related programs in safe environments. He offers all programs at no cost to veterans and families.

Horses Help Heroes works with licensed stables in Maryland including Great Escape Stables in South Bowie and Clarity Riding in Davidsonville. Tracy works with the farms to develop events ranging from veteran encounters with horses to family days including pony rides.

A Walter Reed veteran program participant said, “This is the best therapy there is. I never want to miss a visit.” The U.S. Marine Corps gave him a five percent chance to live following his combat-inflicted traumatic brain injuries. And now, the horses are helping him heal.

Social worker Claire McCawley supports the Horses Help Heroes mission as one of its all-volunteer force. She said, “There is so much research that supports animal-assisted therapy. One of the problems with people undergoing serious medical treatment, like many of the people in this program, is the isolation for them. Bringing them out to connect with the animals in a non-intrusive way acts as a medium for more social interaction. This is such a great program.”

Horses Help Heroes is unique in that it also supports Gold Star families. Gold Star families are those that have lost a family member during conflicts. One of Horses Help Heroes’ champions is Janice Chance, President of Maryland’s Gold Star Mothers. She is the proud mother of fallen Captain Jesse Melton III, U.S Marine Corps, killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. Chance rallies other Gold Star Mothers and families to attend events and support the program. She even rides herself, choosing her namesake pony, “Chance.”

“We are all blessed to be here,” she said as she smiled wide and enjoyed Chance’s peaceful, rocking ride around Great Escape Stables’ arena.

Elizabeth Ratliff, an active duty U.S. Coast Guard member, saw a Horses Help Heroes event posted on Facebook. She and her husband Curt, a Marine Corps veteran, brought their 2-year-old daughter, Emilee, all the way from Glen Burnie to come meet, pet, and ride a horse at Great Escape Stables.

Young Emilee didn’t fear the animal six times her height. She reached up to pet his nose and giggled when the pony snorted at her. Emilee rode for the first time and learned much from the day including, “The horsey says neigh.”

Emilee’s mom said, “I never knew there were places like this, and it’s such a joy to get the family out in the country and experience this. We will be back.”

The owner of Great Escape Stables, Stephanie Hedlund, said, “I really like working with this program. It’s great to see people click with the horses, and it’s such a positive experience for everyone. I’m glad we can help, and I look forward to hosting more events in the future.”

For more information about the program, to donate, or to volunteer, please see www.horseshelpheroes.org, and https://www.facebook.com/horseshelpheroes.org/. Founder Dean Tracy can also be reached at info@horseshelpheroes.org and 240-696-1732.

by Valerie Ormond

A Lucky Call to Serve

So excited to share this story featured in the beautiful Sidelines magazine. I had the opportunity to write this story about inspiring young Jessica Groen, her road to the U.S. Air Force Academy, and her special connection with our horse, Lucky. (Click above for full story.)

Lucky also happens to be a central character in books Believing In Horses and Believing In Horses, Too and has appeared in this blog frequently over the years.

Thank you to the Groen family and the Sidelines editorial staff for helping tell this story.

Biking the Great Allegheny Passage

One of my business goals this year was to achieve better work/life balance. Aligned with that was to get more physically fit. I’m happy to say I reached both goals and topped off this achievement with a fun, but challenging, bike ride of the Great Allegheny Passage, or the “GAP.” My husband, Jaime, and I rode the 150-mile rail trail from Pittsburgh, PA, to Cumberland, MD, over a five-day period in mid-September.

The GAP’s spectacular scenery and iconic sights included the Eastern Continental Divide, the Mason-Dixon Line, beautiful bridges, old railroad tunnels, river views, and waterfalls. The people in the small towns we visited along the way could not have been more accommodating or nicer.

I mentioned “challenging,” due to the Pennsylvania flooding and trail damage during the ride – always an adventure! But once again, the ride reminded me of how fortunate I am to have the perfect partner in life who knows how to go with the flow and smile while counting blessings rather than complain about uncontrollable obstacles.

Another wonderful trip in the history books, and a huge thank you to the tremendous trail supporters along the route. And now it’s time to start planning next year’s adventure….

Creating and Managing Successful Internships

Maryland Horse Council Intern Holden Rafey interviewing Olympian Joe Fargis (photo courtesy of Holden Rafey)

I landed my first professional job at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Md., after serving as an intern while a student at Towson University. At 21-years-old, I became the station’s assistant Public Relations Officer with real duties and responsibilities and had the opportunity to work with industry icons like Oprah Winfrey. I owe that job and experience to my supervisor during my internship, Joyce Kashima. [Read more…]

Taking Chances

AIE_VeteranWritingServices (1)It’s been three years since a Navy friend asked me if I was interested in applying for the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program.  At the time I thought:

“Entrepreneur? Doesn’t that mean someone who wants to get rich?”

[Read more…]

Tips for Writing a Book

I hope you enjoy this video and interview as much as I did. Carrie Green, Founder and Director of the Female Entrepreneur Association International, generously allowed me to share this with my readers because so many people tell me they are overwhelmed with the prospect of writing a book.

Please watch this short video if you’d like to see the process broken down into four easy steps – no strings attached! Morgan Gist MacDonald makes it seem so easy and manageable that I may just write another book. 

Here is the full blog post with additional details and a giveaway, too.

I hope these talented entrepreneurs inspire at least one person out there to start writing a book – now go do it!