Members of the military community who want to discover the healing benefits of horseback riding are invited to a wounded warrior horsemanship event, beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 on Wetherby Field.
“The Wounded Warrior Horsemanship Outreach Program (is designed) to help our physically and mentally wounded warriors returning from war cope with their disabilities,” said CSM(R) Sam Rhodes, who launched the program with its inaugural event Nov. 8, 2008. “In 2009, I expanded the program to include all service members, veterans and their families. Several of us are suffering from invisible wounds. As the program grows in the future, we will expand this to twice a year and continue this as long as we have Soldiers, families and veterans who serve.”
The event, which includes free lessons, riding, a T-shirt and lunch, is largely supported by volunteers, he said.
Anyone who is experienced with horses, particularly horse instructors, would be a welcome addition to the volunteering team, said Beth Brown, one of 30 volunteers from the surrounding area participating in the event.
Providing additional gentle horses for the Soldiers to ride would also be helpful, she said.
“I volunteer because it is an opportunity for me to help the military, and they are so deserving of anything we do for them,” said Brown, who started with the program two years ago along with her two children who competed on the Harris County High School rodeo team. “It is a very small contribution we make to pay them back for all they sacrifice on our behalf.”
Brown, who has spent her life with horses, said she has seen how horsemanship benefits service members.
“From my conversations with the Soldiers, it seems like the interaction with the horses takes their minds off of their problems,” she said. “The horses are such a different environment from the everyday routine for the Soldiers that it helps to step away from their daily life to another world.”
Rhodes, who battles often with the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder, said horsemanship has helped him on his journey to recovery, providing structure and “a sense of well being.”
“Every Soldier and veteran who has served needs an outlet,” he said. “Just being around horses helps improve the healing process. Controlling horses is similar to the challenges we former Soldiers and current Soldiers face as a result of what we have seen and remember about our tours in combat. If I can control an animal as large as a horse, I think I can control other factors in my life. The program promotes the idea of a future with possibilities.”
To volunteer, donate or find out more, e-mail Rhodes at email@example.com.