Every other week or so, a bus from the Lamun-Lusk-Sanchez Texas State Veterans Home comes to visit us and the horses at H3. They are a happy bunch, eagerly getting off the bus like happy school children, but with of course, a world of experience behind them. Sometimes the turnout is small, but today there were quite a few. Some of the Veterans were in wheelchairs, or use walkers, and some could walk on their own despite minor amputations and other physical challenges. I was honored to sit down with a few of them and hear a few stories, and their thoughts on Equine Assisted Therapy.
My first conversation was with a Veteran we’ll call J. He told me he was born on the back of a horse, or almost because they couldn’t get his laboring mother off quick enough! He wasn’t sure if it was in the stall or the barn floor, but apparently it was quite a ride. He spent most of his childhood and working days at a Pony Ranch in Colorado, where he had his fair share of ponies with too much attitude. He even competed in the rodeo riding broncs, and calf roping. When I asked him about Equine Assisted Therapy he admitted he’d had some form of it all his life. He’s been coming to H3 for at least a year now and has seen many Veterans come and go. He unprompted told me that those who come here (to H3) seem to live longer! For him, coming to H3 reminds him of his childhood. He said it took him a while to climb onto a horse at H3, and when he did of course it hurt the butt, but it was a nostalgic happy pain. Coming to H3, brushing the horses, leading them around, and riding them takes your mind off of whatever is bothering you he says to me, and I can attest to that! The Veterans from the group are always happier after they leave, only a few sour ones that came that way stayed that way, but usually it’s all smiles!
The next Veteran, I’ll call V, had never been on a horse until coming to H3! He is now the Veteran brand ambassador for H3 at the Lamun-Lusk-Sanchez facility. V wanted to ride all his life and never did. It took him a couple of years to work up to it, but after he could finally say “I rode a horse today!” V has only ridden 8 to 10 times at H3 but says he’s always happy after and some of the soreness goes away. He feels accomplished and like he’s helping himself in some way. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk much since it was V’s turn to ride our big fella’ Choco!
Lastly I spoke with a Veteran we will call R. He unprompted told me that he loved coming to H3 so much that it was like a vacation. He would reschedule his physiotherapy so he could come here. V had two strokes in his lifetime and was told he would never walk again, yet here he is. He said he lived in his own world for over a year as he learnt how to speak again. He was comfortable telling me he did two years in the Vietnam War, and said they were the fastest two years of his life. He got an education in Alpine after his service and worked hard in the oil and gas industry. R enjoyed speaking about his daughter who lives here in Midland and his three grandchildren who are starting to graduate from college. He said he liked the peacefulness and calmness of coming to H3, even though he hasn’t worked up to riding yet. He says coming to H3 reminds him of his grandfather and riding with his friend through the college years. Today it was important for him to stay active and keep moving, those who stay in bed are set to stay in bed forever he told me. He says everyone he meets loves coming to H3, and the Veterans are just happier when they leave. He hates to think about someone not being able to come. We didn’t get a chance to brush the horses with R today, which he loves to do, because the bus was taking off, but we did share some carrots with Toby, Sparkles and Choco who were out saying hello to the Veterans today.
All the Veterans we spoke to mentioned how happy they were to take a break from their daily life at the Home. Even though it is a friendly caring environment, getting to leave gives them a different sense of freedom and joy. Visiting with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the H3 staff was just as important as being around the horses, grooming them, giving them treats, and even riding. We were beyond happy to talk to them today, and we dare say they enjoyed it too.