Gales Ferry, Conn. – This year's Mystic Valley Hunt Club Fall Dressage show, held Oct. 9-11, raised $4,260 for the NARHA Horses for Heroes program. The money was raised during a silent auction held at the show and will be used to support the program that benefits veterans injured while serving in the military. Thousands of American military personnel have been injured during service in Iraq and Afghanistan and many of them are now getting therapeutic help from horses. Photo by Jennifer Koppy - Sally Hinkle of the Mystic Valley Hunt Club on the left and Mandy Hogan on the right. Therapeutic riding programs have shown much success over the years in helping those with disabilities and it was back in 2005 that Army doctors in Texas came up with the idea of using cavalry horses as therapy for wounded veterans. What resulted was the launch of a program that has now spread across the U.S. The program is operated through NARHA, which serves as a national umbrella organization for therapeutic riding programs.
"The program really started because of the returning war wounded from the current conflict. The first pilot was at Ft. Hood with one of our centers working with U.S. cavalry horses and then the most active and high profile program started with a NARHA instructor who volunteered at Walter Reed Medical Center and with the help of former military personnel approached the Caisson Platoon at Ft. Myers in the Washington, D.C. area to work with those horses," said Paul A. Spiers, past NARHA president and current chair of the Horses for Heroes Task Force.
Show organizers give much credit to Ann Guptill and Lou Denizard for helping raise the funds. "They were instrumental in getting the great donations that we had. Both of them have connections in the dressage world that we wouldn't have had access to otherwise, and because of them we were able to get some fabulous donations," said Jennifer Koppy.
Spiers, who served in the Canadian military, strongly believes in the benefits of the program for wounded veterans. "I had served in the Canadian military when I was younger and have seen firsthand the sacrifices some of our World Ware II veterans had made. I also grew up in the Vietnam era, and those veterans were poorly treated. Fortunately, we are now providing NH4H services to many of those veterans nationally," he said.
Riding centers serving veterans are spread across the country with several in the Northeast and Spiers said the number catering to veterans is growing. In some states, such as Vermont, therapeutic riding centers are pooling their resources in order to make horses available to veterans scattered about the state. The funds raised during the Mystic Valley Fall show will go a long way in helping to offset the costs of providing these services. But, of course, more support is always welcome. To learn more about the Horses for Heroes program and how you can help, visit www.narha.org.