Horses for Heroes—N.M. Cowboy UP!
Santa Fe, N.M.
From day one at the Crossed Arrows Ranch in the high desert, Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans and active-duty personnel have the opportunity to engage with horses in a working-ranch setting. The Cowboy Up! program is self-paced and objective-based. Participants will learn groundwork and horsemanship basics, help out with ranch chores, and even work with cattle—all while enjoying the comfort and camaraderie of working with fellow cowboy-soldiers. The skills and mindset learned in the military are restructured to apply to ranch life, facilitating recuperation and reintegration into the civilian world. Many of the program participants give back by becoming instructors at Crossed Arrows, and others have found new careers as cowboys on working ranches.
Wrangler National Patriot
The goal of Wrangler National Patriot is to help raise funds for charities that support military veterans and their families. Since its start in 2009, more than $750,000 has been raised. How can you help? Purchase Wrangler National Patriot shirts at rodeos and Western retailers across the country or attend one of the events that support the initiative (a directory of events can be found on the website). Proceeds of each are donated to military charities. Additionally, each year the Wrangler National Patriot Tour brings Western singers and cowboys to entertain the troops. This year’s tour brought the likes of world champion bareback rider Kaycee Field, former Miss Rodeo America Meagan Ridley, and Nashville singer Lucas Hoge to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where they swapped stories with the Coast Guard units stationed there, performed some acoustic sessions, and taught roping lessons.
Horses4Heroes’s mission is to bring equine-based recreational, instructional, and health and wellness programs to society’s heroes: fire fighters, EMTs, law enforcement officers, first responders, veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families. They also provide programs for at-risk youth. Operation Free Ride (operationfreeride.com), an offshoot program of Horses4Heroes, has one goal in mind: to connect veterans and their families with horses. With more than 200 participating locations across the country, Horses4Heroes offers everything from first rides and women-only retreats to therapeutic sessions and empowerment workshops—all harnessing the physical and emotional healing power of the horse.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Racehorses are pushed to the absolute max during their careers, and often face a difficult and uncertain future when their job is done—a transition that closely mirrors that of many veterans. During the three-day Saratoga WarHorse program, veterans are paired with off-the-track Thoroughbreds who share their unique struggle. Veterans work on communicating with their horses in the horse’s own language, creating a trusting relationship—an emotionally empowering experience for both human and animal.