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

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…]

Guest Post – Days End Farm Horse Rescue

Please welcome Maryland Horse Council (MHC) Youth Correspondent, Holden Rafey, and her guest post on Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR). Days End is featured in Believing In Horses, Too, and I’ve been fortunate to get to know some of the great staff and volunteers there over the past few years. I’ve also been honored to serve as Holden’s mentor in her MHC internship for almost two years now and share with you her 19th post to the MHC’s Youth Blog discussing this tremendous organization.

Days End Farm Horse Rescue

By Holden Rafey

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Time off from school can be time spent with horses, though riding is only one of the ways to get your horse fix. Did you know you can learn about rescue horses and help with their care in spring break and summer programs? [Read more…]

Brave HEART – Horses Helping Military

BraveHEART_CoverI recently had the opportunity to work with the Brave HEART program on several writing projects. Brave HEART (Heroes Equine Adventure & Riding Therapy) “provides an environment where Veterans, military members, and their families come together to facilitate healing and strengthen relationships through equine interaction and outdoor activities.” A 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Brave HEART program supports those who have served, or still serve, at the peaceful Larkspur Lane Farm setting in Hagerstown, Maryland.

While speaking with the founder and Executive Director, Laura Lane-Unsworth, we determined one of the Brave HEART projects would be a tri-fold brochure to help inform people about Brave HEART’s work. Laura was most helpful in getting me the top five points to get across, testimonials, and a general feel for the tone of the brochure. I put together the words and then enlisted the help of my talented graphic designer friend, Brittany Klein of Radiant Resolution, LLC, to display the information in a far more pleasing manner than I could. I am not a graphic designer – at all – and know the value good graphic designers bring to any visual project. [Read more…]

“Believing In Horses, Too” Awarded Grant

MHIBThank you to the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) for selecting “Believing In Horses, Too,” for a 2016 grant award! The funds will be used to purchase and donate a copy of “Believing In Horses, Too,” for every Maryland county public library system and Baltimore city. “Believing In Horses, Too,” tells the story of a young girl who worries about her Navy father serving in Afghanistan. She turns to her love of horses to distract her from her problems. Her adventures with horse rescue, show competition, and equine-assisted therapies present her challenges, and she learns about overcoming adversity through friendships and personal growth. [Read more…]

Author Pays It Forward for Other Authors

I hope you will stop by and check out my guest author interview on Cheryl Holloway’s Blog – she asks great questions! Besides offering writing tips based on her career as a writer, Cheryl hosts authors from around the world to help them gain exposure. In her words: “On this blog, I ‘Pay it Forward’ to other authors by spotlighting them with a Guest Author Interview. I only ask that they too ‘Pay It Forward’ to any other author.”

http://www.cherylholloway.net/blog/2015/11/20/guest-author-interview-valerie-ormond/

Cheryl Holloway's Blog [Read more…]