I’ll admit, I rarely read my alma mater’s alumni magazine, but for some reason today I flipped through it and saw an article on a recent program they started called “Hooves for Heroes.” There are lots of veterans programs now, but what caught my eye, and what I want to share with you, were two novelties:
1) It’s very simple.
The article says, “After attending four weekly lessons on horse handling … a veteran will be able to spend time independently with a horse. The animal gets extra grooming and can graze on a lead outside the paddocks. Each enjoys the other’s companionship.” The UCD Equestrian Center’s program page has a little more detail: “The Hooves for Heroes (HFH) program connects student veterans with UCD horses. Students will learn basic horse handling skills like safely leading, grooming, haltering, and tying a horse. Participants will gain an understanding of horse behavior and husbandry. Participants will spend time with an assigned horse and give them special attention, care and hand grazing while enjoying the horse and human bond in this rewarding and relaxing program.”
I’m sure there’s more to it, but at it’s most basic it’s very simple – teach veterans enough horse handling information to let them be on their own with a horse and benefit from just caring for be being with an equine. I love it. Because that’s what I (and what I see other) benefit the most out of with our own horses – just being with them, the relationship. The peace of being at the barn. The acceptance by a huge animal. The break out of your normal life.
2) The campus equestrian center partnered with the campus Veterans Success Center to provide this program to veterans attending UC Davis.
I love that it’s all on campus. One problem I’ve seen many veterans programs have is just getting veterans out to the barn. Transportation can be an issue when the person is unable to drive themselves. Because this program is on campus, a place where the veteran is already going anyway for coursework, it’s easier to make it to the barn and fit the program into their week.
I also love that it’s a collaboration between campus programs. The UCD equestrian center already runs a “Guardian Angels” program in which they train volunteers in horse care, with the end goal of each being assigned a horse to spend time with and help care for. The Hooves for Heroes is an adaptation of this program specifically for veterans. Also, UCD already has an on campus Veterans Success Center, and it’s through them that veterans have access to this Hooves for Heroes program. So it uses a program that veterans are already using, making is easier for veterans to get involved, so recruitment doesn’t have to start from scratch. It’s by campus, for campus, which creates a wonderful dynamic and reaches a group of veterans that it’s hard for off-campus veterans programs to reach (believe me, I’ve tried).
This brings up new ideas: if you want to reach veterans on campus with an equine program, collaborate with the programs they already have going. You can partner with their veterans success group, or help the campus equestrian center create their own program.
Anyway, just wanted to share! Hope it’s encouraging and inspiring to some of you out there.
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!