I live in the 3rd largest California county, near the Oregon border, with the 4th smallest population. Our unemployment rates are the 2nd highest in the state at 26.7%, drug use and manufacturing is in the upward swing, and we are seeing a larger number of kids in the foster care system. With that said, I am still proud of our county in many ways; neighbors still stretch out a helping hand, communities come together to support kids in sports, FFA, and 4-H, and non-profit and service organizations such CattleWomen, Farm Bureau, Rotary, and Lion’s Club do what they can to support their communities. Among these incredible organizations is one called “Stable Hands”, a group dedicated to bringing patient horses and people of varying physical and mental challenges together. I am fortunate to know several of the tireless volunteers through their own love of horses and Parelli Natural Horsemanship. We have been students together and now I am proud to be a part of their journeys in an instructor role. But, today, I want to share another program that Stable Hands oversees, Horses for Heroes.
Horses for Heroes is specific to connecting horses with our military veterans who have come home with mental, physical, and emotional challenges. Through Parelli and Horses for Heroes, I met one of our veterans, Craig, whose drive and determination exceeds most people I know. We met at one of our monthly Parelli Playdays which took place at the facility that houses Horses for Heroes. Craig was helping with the facility and was there to make sure we had everything we needed, including an incredibly groomed arena! We chatted a bit and that is when I found out he was fairly new to the Parelli program and wanted to learn as much as he could. I offered to bring my equine partner, Dan, to the next playday and to let the two play.
The next month rolled around and the two were an instant hit together….Dan was patient while his human fumbled a bit with his rope and carrot stick, and our veteran persisted when Dan went into true left brain introvert form. Dan’s ears were constantly asking questions and a huge smile was fixated on Craig’s face. As I watched them that day, it was re-affirmed to me how special horses are and how great of a fit Parelli is with people with special needs.
After that day, time went by and Craig’s physical pain was getting in the way of Parelli playtime, but he was still participating in the Horses for Heroes program (incidentally, their foundation for horses and humans is Parelli). It was not until last month was I able to see Craig again.
He is in better shape physically and is now getting things in order for this year’s Heroes group. He has also established his goals for the next stage of his life, to become a licensed Parelli Professional and infuse it into teaching other veterans. We are planning Craig’s Level 1 audition for next month and he is doing all he can to attend a course in Colorado this spring.
Craig knows he has hard work ahead, both physically and financially, but I know his drive will get him to achieving his goals.
If you are interested in supporting our hero, whether it be through lodging, a lease horse, travel, or a monetary donation, please email me at email@example.com (NOTE: contributions are for Craig and his pursuit of being a Parelli Professional and are not being contributed to Horses for Heroes or Stable Hands. Your donations are not considered tax deductible.)
Here is to all our heroes, horses and humans, who make all our lives better!
Erin Fowle is a Parelli Professional, Two Star Junior Instructor, and a Special Education teacher in Northern California.