August 17-21 saw riders from the Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding program compete in the National Snaffle Bit Association World Championship Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Despite daily temperatures above 100 degrees they had a wonderful time and came home with second and third place awards. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this possible by buying raffle tickets, organizing horse shows and yard sales and making donations. The staff and riders only concern was that the therapy horses, now "show horses", would be too stuck up to do their regular work. Not to worry - less than a week after returning to Santa Fe Listening Horse volunteers and therapy horses spent an entire day happily giving free rides to children at a charity event.
The following is an article that was printed in the August 2011 issue of "Way To Go" the official magazine of the NSBA. There will be a follow-up article in the September issue.
NSBA WILL WELCOME RIDERS WHO HAVE SERVED THIS COUNTRY'S MILITARY AND THE HORSES THAT ARE HELPING THEM HEAL . BY CORRINE S. BORTON . PHOTOS BY TERR PETERSON
THE NATIONAL SNAFFLE BIT ASSOCIATION IS VERY EXCITED TO WELCOME FOR THE FITST TIME TO ITS World Championship Show Aug. 17-21 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, riders who have served the United States of America's military and he horses that are helping them heal.
Two classes - Walk-Trot Supported and Walk-Trot Independent will be featured on Aug. 20, in the Ford Truck Arena for veterans and active military participation in Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.)'s Horses For Heroes programs.
PATH, a federally-registered 501(c3) nonprofit, was formed in 1969 as the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association to promote equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs. With over 3,500 certified instructors and 800 member centers around the globe, more than 6.500 PATH Intl. members help more than 42,000 children and adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges find strength and independence through the power of the horse each year. In 2007 PATH Intl. initiated the Horses For Heroes in an effort to extend their services to service members and veterans. Program centers connect with Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Clinics, as well as individual veterans. Veterans of any age can benefit from the progran and by being involved with equines.
Guss Jolley, of the Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contacted the NSBA in 2010 regarding his Horses For Heroes proram and to ask if the association would consider classes for veterans. Jolley explained that he had received information on the NSBA World Show and its Riders With Disabilities classes. He noted that many of the members of his program might be interested in participating but that they would not qualify because their wounds were emotional not cognitive or physical. Rebecca Volkert, executive director of the NSBA Foundation, presented a proposal for the classes at the March NSBA Board of Directors meeting.
"Board members embraced the concept and approved the additional classes as a special event with separate eligibility requirements," Volkert said.
To be eligible, riders must be disables veterans or active duty "wounded Warriors" who are participating in PATH Horses For Heroes programs. Horses need not be egistered or owned by the rider or facility. Judging is based 50 percent on the rider and 50 percent on the horse.
Jolley said he is bringing riders from his Horses For Heroes program.
"This is going to be the most involved event in hich we've ever participated," he said. "Most of our events are around here and we even make up some of our own."
Jolley said the program provides veterans in his program with an increased sense of self-worth.
"It gives these guys a feeling of puttin their raining to use," he said.
Veterans in the Horses For Heroes programs across he country have physical limitations or are battling post-traumatic Stress disorder. Therapists have been finding that working with and riding horses can be an effective therapeutic tool.
"It's about being in the moment rather than focusing on the pain," Jolley said.
Jolley also hopes that by participating in the classes being offered at the NSBA World Show, his group can help draw attention to the Heroes For Horses program within PATH.
"It will cost each group bringing competitors to the show a minimum of %500.00 per person and it is our hope that we can get PATH to provide some support in uears to come. The experience will give us something to go back home and talk about and help raise awareness of the good work the program is providing across the country."
Alex Limkin, 38, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq from November 2004 to October 2005. He said he suffers from PYSD and struggles on a daily basis. He found a brochure for the Listening Horse Horses For Heroes program at his veteran's hospital and decided to call.
"I was curious," he said. "I am willing to try any method that will help me."
Limkin had no previous experience with horses, but immediately found that the program helped. After completing two eight-week sessions in the arena, he continued with the program by scouting trails with Jolley for the Northern new Mexico Horsemen's Association Ridge Riders and remains active with the Horses For Heroes program today.
"The program continues to help me," he said. "When I'm around the horses I can slip into their space. I'm grounded in the present and they say that is supposed to help people who have been exposed to trauma."
Limkin will be one of the members of the Listening Horse Horses For Heroes program to compete in the special event classes at the NSBA World Show.
"I'm not going to win anything," he explained. "I'm really not into competition at all. I'm going to support Gus, who has given so much of himself to this program. He loves those horses and has donated so much of himself that I want to pay him back in some wau. I do think it will be interesting to watch."
Volkert said she thinks exhibitors and spectators will also find it interesting to watch the veterans compete.
"The philosophy of the NSBA Heroes On Horses very special event is to honor the riders who have served our country and the horses that are helping them heal," she said. "This event will help all of the exhibitors and spectators to appreciate the power that horses have to change our lies and to experience a patriotic, feel-good moment."
Volkert said that many of the groups participating from around the country will be experiencing their first horse show.
"The riders and their coaches will appreciate having exhibitors at the show welcome them in a friendly and encouraging manner," she said. "All exhibitors and spectators are encouraged to be sure to fill the audience for these classes."
SUCCEED, Digestive Conditioning Program, is sponsoring the eroes On Horses program.
"We appreciate the financial support that SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program is providing for this program," Volkert said. "It would be great if NSBA members let the SUCCEED representative at the NSBA World Championship Show know that they appreciate their sponsorship of this program."
The NSBA is in the process of building a Foundation to continue to develop and sustain programs such as this. NSBA membership financial support of the NSBA Foundation will help NSBA to take leadership in order to bring the benefits of the horse show experience to riders who might otherwise not have an opportunity to participate.
The NSBA Foundation is currently supporting programs such as Trainer Crisis Fund, Youth Scholarship, heroes on Horses, Sponsor A Rider Program for Riders With Disabilities and the Tac Room and Clothes Closet to wich NSBA members can donate gently used show equipment and outfits that will be provided to Therapeutic Riding Faciities for their Riders with Disabilities. Fundraisers at the NSBA World Championship Show will include the Crisis Fund Mustache Contest, NSBA Foundation Raffle Baskets and Silent Auction. A drop off location for donated tack and show clothes will be provided on site.
Gus and his partner all dressed up in their show duds.
Maybe one of the horses did let the experience go to his head a little.
For more information about the Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding Horses For Heroes program please visit www.listeninghorse.org.