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Director Nancy De Santis (leſt ) works “from the ground up” with a program participant who is an Army veteran. Photo by Rick Iannucci

children. Such walls keep all emotion and at achment buried deep and me i

out of reach. For many veterans the fi rst time in a long time they are able to chip away at that wall is standing alone with a horse. T e release is oſt en so overpowering that emotions fl ow freely.

In those fi rst days Nancy and Rick introduce the veterans not only to horsemanship, such as how to politely approach a horse, brush, halter and lead, but also how to feel the horse and his spirit. T. T ey do this by al- lowing the veterans to experience relationship-building with the horses in various ways. In addition to basic groundwork and get ing them com- fortable in the saddle, which will become important as they move up to the next phase of riding herd and regular ranch work, Nancy explains they include the veterans in caring for the horses. Not just feeding, grooming and stall maintenance, but actually working with the horses for their own comfort and well being. T ey instill in the veterans that taking care of the horses’ needs helps them to take care of their own.

HORSES ARE HEROES, TOO Nancy knows therapy horses work hard, and such work can be de-

manding of not only their bodies but their minds as well. T eir horses really have two jobs at Horses For Heroes Cowboy Up! as they are

“We teach the veterans to read the horse, and the horse teaches the veteran to live in the moment.”

active-duty cow horses as well as “instructor” horses. She works with the horses intuitively and physically, incorporating fun stretching exercises, light massage and even Reiki, to keep them healthy, comfortable and happy in their jobs. She incorporates the veterans in these exercises, too. By learning how to do these exercises with and for the horses, the veterans learn a lot about “reading” and understanding horses—and reading and understanding themselves. As Nancy says, “We teach the veterans to read the horse, and the horse teaches the veteran to live in the moment.” For many it is something they’ve forgot en how to do.

RIDE TO When they are satisfi ed with how a veteran

reads, feels, respects and sits a horse and can calmly work with cat le, they’ll pass through the “Purple Wild Rag” ceremony and move on to ranch work with the numerous ranches that are their program partners. T is is now a commencement into a world made up of hard work, open range, cows, horses and living the cowboy way. T ey’ll soon realize how easy it is to get lost in the spirit of a life among cows, horses and friends. T ey discover that work- ing together with friends who have been there can chip away at those walls that suff ocate. As veterans begin to experience the life

of a working ranch, they’ll be doing it with other warriors who’ve shared the same ex- periences—from life during deployment to

Horse health care is a #1

priority. Rick

Iannucci demon- strates proper deworming

procedures to the veterans,

who will all take their turn.


The veterans and volunteers of Horses For Heroes - New Mexico Inc., will be joining forces with The American Competitive Trail Horse As- sociation (ACTHA) for the fi rst annual “Ride to Remember” on November 11 and 12. You’re invited to hit the trails with them and join in a nationwide remembrance and tribute to our ser- vicemen and women. Every ride will assist in raising much-needed funds for those nonprofi t organizations that support our wounded warriors. For details go to

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