Thank You For Your Service: Veterans and Horses

As I mentioned in a previous post, Just Horsin’ Around, riding often becomes more difficult for me as Winter approaches. The weather in my area is frequently unstable during the late Fall season. I get in a ride here and there, but I have done more groundwork recently than riding. Being in the saddle less often makes me appreciate it all the more. These are my final 2022 Autumn-colored photos as the leaves have fallen now.

My husband isn’t a horse person, but he occasionally likes to come out with me to take photos, groom or do some of that groundwork with the horses. Since today is Veteran’s Day in the USA, and my husband is a Veteran, I wanted to be sure to feature some photos of the groundwork that my husband and Piper have been doing recently.

We have worked in the round pen, the paddock and the pasture, depending upon the variable weather and footing conditions. In between bad weather days, my husband and I have taken the horses for short walks in the pasture. I enjoy watching the leaves turn colors and later scatter to the ground. I like listening to their hooves make the leaves crunch underneath too.

The changing leaves made for some fun backdrops for photos. I will have to remind myself next year that a groomed horse with eye goobers removed makes for a more aesthetically pleasing picture. Piper was groomed before his photo shoot, but in a moment of oversight, Shiloh was not. Shiloh’s “smile” in the photo on the right, though, kind of makes me think he was in on the joke. 🙂

Next, in the round pen, here is a sampling of my husband negotiating different obstacles with Piper.

Here Piper shows off his signature nose flip with the big horse ball. I had fun making a couple of his video clips into GIFs.

We also worked on getting Piper used to the cane/walking stick that my husband uses to walk with if he’s going to be on his feet for awhile. He has arthritis and usually carries the cane in his right hand, but we started Piper out with my husband having the cane in his left hand.

Here, on a cloudier and windier day, we took both horses to the round pen together. My husband practiced walking on Piper’s right side while Shiloh hung out with me as I took photos.

I also took a brief bareback ride on Shiloh and practiced following, leading and passing Piper. In my mind’s eye, I have this image of my riding Shiloh with my husband walking Piper in-hand down the trail. Not really sure we will ever get that far, but having something to aim for helps me organize our groundwork sessions.

With an additional nod to Veteran’s Day, I include web links below that refer to equine-assisted activities for Veterans. While I never served any Veterans during my employment as a certified therapeutic riding instructor, I was certainly aware of therapeutic activities catering to Veterans. These kinds of services have exploded in popularity in the last ten years since I left the field of equine-assisted activities.

If you are interested in learning more, please check out the following ones links. I wasn’t able to click on every resource and video within all the pages. I can’t speak to my opinion of all of them. But I provide these links as examples of the depth and breadth of these types of programs. There is a whole lot more out there on the subject, and more resources, but this should help get you started if you are new to the idea.
Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies for Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Current State, Challenges and Future Directions (2021) (National Veterans Outdoors Resource Hub: Bridging the gap between veterans and the outdoors)

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