Another Challenge for Veterans - This One More Fun. by Linda Brown A childhood addiction that had no cure. It was fed by books, plastic figures, TV shows, and movies. There wasn't a way to get over the addiction. The old adage, "One is too many and a thousand is never enough." It was horses. The smell of their skin, the warmth of their sweet breath, the feeling of contentment and peace just being around them. But as a kid we lived in suburbia and had no money to own a horse. That wasn't enough of a determent. Weekend trail riding on rented horses, working at various local stables doing ANYTHING, teaching riding lessons as I got older just kept the addiction fed. School, Wall Street type jobs, saving money and years later, an opportunity to do the unimaginable. Leave all that behind, import an amazing herd from England, bring them to the U.S., and raise Gypsy Horses (now over 35+). Fast forward through ten years of fabulous foals, too many World Show Championships to mention, appearing as clinician at many prestigious Stock Shows, State Fairs, parades, and so many other public events. Over the many years, the extreme calmness, smarts, and gentleness of the Gypsy Horses made them appear on the radar of those who might face physical and mental challenges. At events, out would come the babies for those in wheelchairs perhaps with MS or Cerebral Palsy, the mentally challenged such as Autism, Down syndrome, and with the elderly, bringing back memories of their youth. We worked with our foals literally from birth so we knew they were safe and quiet around most any challenge. Brushes came out, petting everywhere, and hugging began. And often tears began to flow on both sides of these exchanges. How can you put into words the joy you see happening. Actually, there is a science behind all of this. The on-the-ground interaction with horses creates the feel good brain chemicals of Oxytocin, Dopamine, and Endorphines…that feeling of peace and calmness is supported by scientific facts. And then it all took a turn. Several years ago a group of Veterans and their Counselors had come to an event where our Gypsy Horses were. One of those in charge mentioned that this group had PTSD, traumatic brain injury, stress/anxiety, reintegration issues, and some were on suicide watch. (A VERY sad statistic, 22 Veterans a day commit suicide--more than have died in the wars. How can this be ?). But the calmness and peace they were exhibiting made me confused. It was explained about the "invisible wounds" Veterans and their families face and they asked if they could come out to the ranch "for a visit". That was the beginning of Surmounters of Texas, Inc. in Burleson, Texas, just South of Fort Worth, a 501(c)3 non-profit equine therapy program for our Veterans like no other. Using newborn foals on up to flashy breeding stallions all on-the-ground, not riding, a peer to peer support was formed for Veterans and their families. We go through exercises anywhere from how to groom, where babies come from, how to harness a horse, and the all time favorite of "trail obstacles". We have Counselors, but the greatest feeling of peace and satisfaction always comes from Veterans helping other Veterans. It is expensive to run an equine therapy program. And government grant money for Veterans services is so very limited as to be almost unavailable. This leaves the necessity of raising our own funds. On December 18-19 at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, such an exciting FUNdraiser is taking place called Equine Trail Challenge. We invite everyone with every breed and size of horse, age of horse, age of participant to come try your skills in our holiday themed obstacle courses riding, in-hand, and driving with AMAZING prizes and silent auction items. Your participation will not only be VERY FUN (we promise you've never seen some of these competitions) but you will be helping an extremely worthy cause. As a non-profit you could ask your accountant if your participation might be tax deductible. Info at [email protected], www.Facebook.com/EquineTrailChallenge, www.EquineTrailChallenge.com, 817-297-9292. Please come join us and help our Veterans. They will also be participating in-hand.