Retirees, service members and families are invited to the Wounded Warrior Horsemanship program Saturday at Wetherby Field.
The fifth event since the program’s inception in 2008, the day will include demonstrations, training and horseback riding from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wetherby Field. And it’s all free.
“It’s just a program of people who love what they’re doing and volunteer their time and their resources to show how much they appreciate the Soldiers and the veterans and their families,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Rhodes, who founded the program.
“We have approximately 70 volunteers,” he said. “It’s really grown. We’re expecting to have at least 40 horses and ponies. We’re anticipating over 500 participants.”
The event is open to all ages and skill levels. Lunch is provided.
“We’re going to teach them how to groom. We’re going to teach them how to saddle. Then they’ll get on the horse and ride,” Rhodes said.
The program kicks off with a demonstration by high school and college rodeo competitors who will perform various stunts. Kids can practice roping a dummy calf. Other activities include a horsemanship demonstration by a handicapped woman, an anatomy station, horseshoeing instruction and an explanation of the costs involved in owning a horse.
Rhodes said he has personally found riding therapeutic.
“When Soldiers go to war, they have a lot of significant events and activities that occur. We don’t want them to forget those memories, but we want to let them take their minds of that for a while,” he said. “It’s just a relaxing atmosphere. It’s really a special moment when you’re spending time with horses. It gives you inner peace.”
From the previous horsemanship events, Rhodes has noticed how much families enjoy being together while riding.
“When you’re away from your family for a year or 15 months, there’s a rebuilding and refreshening process, and sometimes just doing more activities that are family-oriented is helpful,” he said. “Bonding is the most important part of any relationship, and as they bond with the horses maybe we’re helping them bond with their families a little closer, too.”
The program will go on Saturday, rain or shine. Registration begins at 9 a.m. To volunteer or register in advance, call 706-545-7978. For more information, visit www.warrioroutreach.org.