Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship - Humans. Horses. Hope.
Sponsored by Highland Park Village . Presented by Jet Linx Dallas.
DALLAS – April 10, 2015 – The two-week countdown has begun! On Saturday, April 25, the 2015 Equest Premier Celebration, sponsored by Highland Park Village and presented by Jet Linx Dallas, will bring plenty of energy, passion and Southern hospitality to the Texas Horse Park. Replacing the Gala of prior years, the much-anticipated Celebration will highlight the expansion of Equest’s programs and facilities, honor the generous supporters who have made Equest a success and of course, feature the amazing Equest Riders and Horses. Led by a powerfully passionate and vibrant committee, Chairs Denny and Connie Carreker and Honorary Chairs Kenny and Lisa Troutt, the equestrian-chic fundraiser will include live and silent auctions, delicious Southern food and drinks, live country music by Ray Johnston Band, and Equest Rider and Horse demonstrations.
You do not want to miss this Southern soiree that begins in the beautiful new Equest Barns. While guests bid on exclusive and must-have auction items, they can sip cocktails from TX Whiskey or Zodiac Vodka. Guests can sit back and relax in the Bourbon & Biscuits Bar sponsored by the Warwick Melrose Hotel or the Cru Wine Lounge.
Speaking of must-have auction items, the Equest auction will provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to live the good life by land, sea or air. Presenting Sponsor Jet Linx has donated a package that includes a one year Jet Linx Membership, three nights in an exclusive resort private home, and a six month membership to Marchay – Private Travel Collective. A 96’ Yacht awaits three lucky couples in Palm Beach for a seven night cruise and of course, a trip to Kentucky must be up for grabs! Title Sponsor Highland Park Village has donated “His & Hers” shopping sprees that will include drinks, dinner and private shopping experiences at exclusive Highland Park Village Boutiques.
This special Celebration will allow guests to meet and support Equest’s Riders and their Therapy Horses. Guests can Adopt an Equest Horse that provides food and care for one year, sponsor an Equest Rider, or purchase the naming rights to a sparkling new Equest Horse Stall.
“The 2015 Equest Premier Celebration is a tribute to our newest facility, Equest at the Texas Horse Park, and will celebrate our recent successes and bright future,” said Equest CEO Patrick Bricker. “Our new facility at the Texas Horse Park is a closer step to Equest’s vision to be a Model of Excellence for Worldwide Therapeutic Riding Centers.”
This Celebration requires no fancy dress or uncomfortable tuxedo. Guests are encouraged to wear their equestrian best – whether Western or English in style – and boots are mandatory!
Easy and convenient shuttle services will be availbale from Park Cities Presbyterian Church and Northwest Bible Church directly to the Texas Horse Park. For all who wish to drive, remote parking will be available at the Lake June DART Station parking lot (1 mile from the Texas Horse Park) with regular shuttle service.
Title Sponsor Highland Park Village is the premier luxury shopping center located in the heart of picturesque Highland Park. A longtime supporter of Equest, Highland Park Village is a treasured part of the community and is well-known for its mix of the world’s best-known upscale retailers. Presenting Sponsor, Jet Linx Dallas takes a different approach to private jet travel: a smarter, more focused approach, providing a local private terminal, local client service team, local planes and local pilots – to better serve its clients and their personal needs.
Equest at the Texas Horse Park
A 304-acre site located in the heart of the Great Trinity Forest, Texas Horse Park, owned by the City of Dallas, is just eight miles from Downtown Dallas. Equest at the Texas Horse Park will have 38 stalls, a full-size covered arena, outdoor arena, and 6,000-square feet of administration and therapy space.
Children’s programming at the Texas Horse Park will provide daily therapy, educational and outreach services to benefit Dallas residents and provide a new resource for the underserved area of South and West Dallas. Equest at the Texas Horse Park will also house the Equest Veterans Program, which currently serves approximately 100 veterans, 68 of whom have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress.
So polish your boots, brush your hat, and saddle up for a night of equestrian festivities and fundraising all for a wonderful charitable cause, Equest! Purchase tickets online www.equest.org/events
- April 7, 2015, Wylie, Texas
Equest, announces its All-Program Spring Horse Show. Do not miss this wonderful event…everyone is invited! The Show is scheduled for Friday April 17th from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm and Saturday April 18th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at their Wylie location. The program will feature over 70 Equest Riders, supported by over 90 volunteers, competing in a variety of Equestrian Classes including Carriage Driving, English and Western Showmanship, Working Trail, Walk/Trot Equitation over poles, Walk/Trot Equitation over crossrails, English and Western Equitation. For more than 30 years, Equest has delivered the benefits of equine-assisted therapy to thousands of North Texas children and adults with varying disabilities and special needs. Equest was the first, and continues to be the largest, therapeutic riding center in Texas with more than 150 clients weekly, receiving a variety of equine-assisted therapy programs. Recently Equest has branched out to serve more clients in the North Texas area at the new Texas Horse Park in South Dallas. For volunteer information, contact Ellie Grant, 972-412-1099. To learn more about Equest, and get directions please visit www.equest.org.
"It was 1am and Tammy was driving us home from fishing at the marina on highway 22 by Lake Whitney. Suddenly, she saw something moving on the side of the highway-she slowed way down and did a U-Turn. Pulling up slowly, we realized that it was a horse, loose on the side of the highway, just grazing! She put on her car blinkers and started to follow this little guy as he was wandering along the grassy sidewalk. Even though this is a 2-lane blacktop highway, it had no centerline dividers or side rails. The highway meets the grassy verge and then there are some fences and private property mixed in with business entrances.
At this point, I called 911 and told them our dilemma. Meanwhile, Tammy is driving very slowly abreast of the horse, attempting to keep him on the grassy verge and off the highway! We kept the emergency flashers on and lights flashing to warn all the other drivers to slow way down as there was something going on and we didn't want to spook the horse. Then, this yahoo in his pickup truck starts racing ahead of us, pulls in front of us and has to slam on his brakes, just missing the horse by inches. Of course, this spooked the horse and he moved from the side grassy verge and started to trot down the highway. Clippity-clop, clippity-clop. We heard the sound of his shoes, so we knew he had an owner and was somebody's pet or working horse and not a wild horse in the middle of the country.
Tammy continued to follow this horse, attempting to get him off the highway, and yet he continued trotting faster and faster and wandered over onto the oncoming side of the highway. Tammy followed him over to that opposite side of the highway, as there was no oncoming traffic at that time. After about a mile of harrowing, heart-stopping moments, Tammy was able to use her car to guide him down into the grassy verge area where he started grazing again. She pulled into a nearby entrance, and as we got out of the car, we both saw the same shooting star! Naturally, we named this horse "Shooting Star." He was a small, thin, brown horse with one white sock on his back left leg and a full white blaze down his face. We made a human/car blockade to keep him on the grassy area waiting for the police officer to shop up.
It was a very dark night, with only a small half-moon behind the clouds, and no streetlights at all. I was using my fishing flashlight on the highway to notify all the 18-wheelers and speeding cars to slow down and to become aware of Tammy on the side of the highway.
About 30 minutes later, this wonderful young highway deputy shows up. He told us that he was raised on a farm in that neighborhood, so we started to feel good that he knew how to handle this situation-he then proceeded to tell us he knew everything about cows and nothing about horses. Deputy Glenn calls for backup and his partner is supposedly on his way to help us and to bring us some rope to secure our "Shooting Star." After a while, we get notified that the other officer was now dealing with a DWI and could not assist the 3 of us. Then, "Shooting Star" starts wandering up towards the highway again.
We get our dog leashes out of the car and Tammy and the deputy slowly make their way towards the horse. They finally got close enough to touch him and talk to him in a calm fashion. Everything Tammy knows about horses, she learned from Equest-what a blessing that information was! Slowly, slowly, they were able to lay one of the leashes onto the neck of "Shooting Star", then loop it and make a lead rope out of it. "Shooting Star" was okay with this, and yet, when the deputy attempted to lead him, he became a stubborn mule and would not budge.
After much coaxing and tempting him with long green grass, Tammy and the deputy were able to get "Shooting Star" to an area where he could happily graze while we secured him to a fence-this was the fence of a boat repair company and I could tell that "Shooting Star" had never been this close to boats and boat engines before, yet he handled it very well.
Tammy and I continued to watch over "Shooting Star" for about 3 more hours while the deputy drove around the country-side, attempting to locate the owner or even a fenced-in pasture that we could get the horse into for the remainder of the night-no such luck! Finally around 6am, the owner was located and "Shooting Star" was able to go home safe and sound. The next day, Deputy Glenn called us and met up with Tammy to return our dog leashes. We always carry dog leashes in our car as we find so many stray dogs-perhaps we need to carry a lead rope and halter in our vehicle as well!
What a G-D wink it was that it was the early hours of the morning and not too much traffic along this country highway AND that Tammy noticed "Shooting Star" and we were able to get him to a safe area as well as prevent a possible disaster on the highway for both horse and human!"
-as told by Deb Lewin
This past Sunday, July 20th, concluded the Summer 2014 Instructor Training Course here at Equest. This year, we saw through the culmination of many changes to the course. Most notably, utilizing a PATH International On-Site Workshop and Certification as the grand finale.
Equest's ITC candidates were able to learn from top PATH International Professionals during a three day workshop before taking their final examinations. These professionals included Sandy Webster, PATH International Master Instructor, Katy Mead, PATH International Advanced Instructor, and Shelley Rose, PATH International Advanced Instructor. In total, there were 25 workshop participants and 15 teaching candidates; possibly one of the biggest OSWC's ever held at Equest!
Once again, Equest candidates proved strong; showing off our program well. All 7 candidates mentored by the Equest staff passed the riding portion of the test. Four of the seven passed the teaching component immediately; the other three just need to complete a video submission. A HUGE thanks is owed to all of the Equest volunteers, riders, and horses for helping these candidates learn the ropes!
Greetings to our dedicated Families, Volunteers and Supporters. As we plan for the upcoming Fall Session and beyond, we are eager for your feedback and opinions so we can better serve our clients and maximize the success and enjoyment of your Equest experience. We would be honored to have you complete the survey below.
The survey takes less than 5 minutes to complete.
Please let us hear your voice-what you have to say is important to us.
Thank you for taking the time to complete our survey. We value your feedback.
Patrick J. Bricker
Chief Executive Officer
During the first 18 months of Equest’s Hooves for Heroes program, things moved at a nice, leisurely trot. We steadily increased the number of veterans and military families served, built a solid base of supporters, and gradually achieved some recognition for our work. But this spring our program took off at a full-blown gallop!
To start, the Bush Center published a piece about our program in their on-line blog and then invited several Hooves for Heroes staff and volunteers to attend President Bush’s seminar on veteran empowerment. Later in February, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Office of Warrior and Family Support recognized our program as a model program serving veterans.
In March, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, visited Equest and pledged ongoing support for our program. During his tour of the ranch, Paul became quite a fan of everyone’s favorite, Hampton!
Momentum grew in April with Equest Hooves for Heroes picking up solid support from North Texas Military Association (NTXMA), Hunt Oil, Ruthie’s Food Trucks, Mockingbird Management, McKinney Sunrise Rotary, Throwaway Ponies, Disabled American Veterans (Garland chapter), and Rockwell-Collins. In addition, we were selected for membership in the R4 Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to connecting veterans and military families with programs offering informed, “best practice” services. Toward the end of the month, the Dallas Morning News came out to see what all the fuss was about! Click here for full story.
In early May, several of our participants and volunteers joined the rest of the Equest family in a demonstration of horsemanship for attendees of the Triple Crown Gala. For many of the long-time Equest supporters, this was their first exposure to our relatively young veterans program.
Just two days later, the Equest Hooves for Heroes team celebrated the end of the spring session in a novel way. 18 participants from three veterans classes came together for our first ever “Veterans Horse Competition”. Riders put on an impressive show for family and friends, competing for ribbons in a variety of challenging events. Ring Steward Chris Hampton kept things running smoothly while announcer Carol Chamberlin kept the crowd updated. Judge Jeannie Young praised the riders’ advanced level of horsemanship and the professional execution of the event.
We were fortunate enough to have some very distinguished visitors for the show: Lisa Hall, representing Hunt Oil; Kelly Bennett and Andy Walsh, our 2014 Hooves for Heroes Golf Classic/Veterans Tribute Dinner co-chairs; Jeremy Lock, award-winning combat photographer and U.S. Air Force veteran; Ken Wesley of Supreme Dream photography; Scott Smith of the Military Veteran Peer Network; and Teresa Woodard of WFAA-TV who did a piece on Equest Hooves for Heroes for Channel 8 - click here to see the story.
Kelly Bennett of Ruthie’s Food Trucks closed out the very special evening in grand style by presenting our program with a $2400 check --- proceeds from our selection as April’s “Ruthie’s Dozen”!
Just as soon as everyone relaxed a little from the hectic spring session, we learned Equest Hooves for Heroes was awarded a $425,000 Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) grant to continue our work! This is twice the amount awarded to any single non-profit working to improve the mental health of Texas veterans and over 25% of the total funds distributed across the state! In short, this investment from the state of Texas is a huge vote of confidence for our program!
Adding even more giddy-up to our go was the announcement that Equest Hooves for Heroes was one of seven local non-profit beneficiaries of Carry The Load’s 2014 Dallas Memorial March! Carry the Load encourages Americans to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day while raising funds to support non-profits serving veterans, military families, and first responders. This year, Carry the Load – Dallas raised over $1.1 million! In addition to being one of the select group of beneficiaries, Equest Hooves for Heroes partnered with IAVA – Texas to march with thousands of others honoring fallen heroes in the Dallas event.
Capping off a fast and furious spring was Hunt Oil’s announcement that our veterans program was chosen as a beneficiary of their employee golf tournament. The Hunt Oil Volunteer Employee group also invited some of the Hooves for Heroes staff and participants to hit the links during the event. We had a great time raising funds for our program while launching golf balls all over the countryside. After the event, our Hunt Oil hosts politely suggested we stick to riding horses from now on. Probably good advice!
As we begin the summer session and prepare to start operations at the Texas Horse Park, we can’t help but wonder, “What next? Is there a gait faster than a gallop?”
I started out at Equest many years ago as a volunteer and fell in love with the world of therapeutic horsemanship. I became an Advanced Riding Instructor and Carriage Driving Instructor before returning to Equest as Program Director.
After a couple of sessions as the Program Director at Equest, I have had the opportunity to observe and thoughtfully consider improvements to the programs we offer our riders and families. I hope that you will understand that although most of the changes to Programs are bound to be welcomed by our families, sometimes making progress also requires some difficult decisions. There have been some changes in personnel and horses that have not been the popular choice. Please know that not only is my door is always open, but I welcome getting to know each of you.
As is typical, Summer of 2014 has a class schedule that is significantly less than our fall and spring schedules. We are hosting 6 instructor training candidates and 1 auditor from the US and 3 other countries. These students will be teaching during the summer session to acquire their required teaching hours. Each lesson will be directly supervised by a PATH International Instructor. Shelby Nicoletti, Naomi Heller, Susannah Denney, Christa Collum, Tami Ginn, Lizzie Ball, Lauren Woodcock and Leilani Warrick and I will continue to be a part of lesson planning and execution and volunteer training. We welcome the opportunity to help these folks become the best that they can be.
Volunteers: During the months of July and August, we will be offering some additional volunteer training. Please look for a chance to sharpen your leader skills, learn to be part of the carriage driving team, get involved with Hippotherapy or even take volunteer riding lessons. More details on these opportunities to come.
I'm thrilled to announce that on Sunday, August 24th, we will be having a Family Appreciation Party. This will be held at Hyatt Place Dallas Garland and will offer food and entertainment. Fall 2014 schedules will be available and you will be able to meet your classmates and instructors, and make new friends! The Fall 2014 schedule will be available for you in July to begin making your class choices so we can have them confirmed by the Party. We will also encourage you to schedule a planning/goal meeting with your instructor and myself before the session begins. Not only will this be a fun event for your entire family, it is an opportunity for us to show you how much you mean to us and to share more of our vision for the future.
Finally, Equest is a growing family, with our second location at Texas Horse Park opening in a matter of months. Beginning in the Fall of 2014 we will expand our Equest Hooves for Heroes program because of the proximity to the Dallas VA. That being said, we will also continue to operate the Equest Hooves for Heroes program in Wylie.
Beginning January of 2015, we will be adding Children's programming to the Texas Horse Park location that will include outreach to local school districts. Additional staff including horses will be added to accommodate this growth. Although some of the current Equest Horses will be reassigned to the Texas Horse Park, you should not feel any other significant effects at our Wylie location.
If you are concerned that the THP location will get all the best resources, you won't have to worry long! We are so pleased to announce that we will be building a new Equest on 238 acres just around the corner from our existing Wylie location. We are really excited to let you know that Ridefest 2014-Blazing New Trails Together will be riding at this new location on October 25th. We are going to share all of the details at the Family Appreciation Party, but know that this new facility will allow us to serve our families at a superior level that we have only dreamed about. Again, don't miss the party on August 24th to hear all of the exciting details!
Thank You for your continued support of Equest. Please come see me anytime so that I can hear your vision for our future. I am so proud to again be a part of the Equest Family.
Equest CEO, Patrick J. Bricker, shares with you some thoughts on the growth plans for Equest, and invites your comments and feedback:
Dear Equest Family,
I am writing this letter directly to you to share some insight behind recent changes at Equest. After reading this letter, I invite you to please share your questions, concerns, comments and ideas with me.
Equest Founder, Susan Schwartz made the decision to grow the organization over 30 years ago when it was called Freedom Ride. Growing any organization poses many challenges. Even with the best of plans, there are always unforeseen pitfalls and opportunities. The only thing that can really be counted on for certain is that there will be change. During the past three decades, Equest has evolved from the passion of two-people into the industry leader that it is today.
Knowing the passion our supporters feel for Equest, I recognize that there are likely questions about the impact that opening a second location at Texas Horse Park will have on the quality of programs and the overall direction of the organization. I understand that there are questions about specific programs, instructors and even the role that horse shows will play in Equest’s future. Last, I am certain that everyone will want to know more about Equest’s plans for the 238 acres across the street from the current location in Wylie.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, August 24, 2014. Equest will be hosting a Family Appreciation Night for all of our Riders and their families at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Garland. Equest Program Director, Joan Cutler will be sharing more details in the coming weeks. This will be a fun event that will kick-off the start of a new session and allow everyone to come together to celebrate the success and accomplishments of our amazing riders. Equest sincerely wants to show our riders, families and volunteers how important you are to us. We will have an opportunity to share all the details on our growth at this event, but I want to share some thoughts on a several topics with you at this time.
Equest will manage our own facilities at the Texas Horse Park, and will control the quality of service we provide to our clients. Equest is one of two independent operators at Texas Horse Park (THP), which is owned and managed by the City of Dallas. Equest’s contract is with the City of Dallas. The City is responsible for selecting each operator at THP. There will be additional operators at THP within the next couple of years. Every operator must sign a contract with the City and adhere to the terms of the contract. Regardless of ownership, Equest’s commitment to excellence will continue to be paramount, and our focus will be on our clients and the therapy horses that make it all possible. We believe that THP will have a positive impact on Equest and the citizens of Dallas.
THP will enable Equest to fulfill our mission to serve more people. One benefit of our partnership with the City of Dallas at THP is increased awareness and support for Equest that is fueling our ability to grow our headquarters in Wylie and Rowlett. Operations at Texas Horse Park for the next year are already largely funded by grants from Crystal Charity Ball and Texas Veterans Coalition. These generous grants will enable Equest to continue to operate and improve our current facilities and programs.
It took an incredible series of events in a very short window of time to make the acquisition of the 238 acre property in Rowlett a reality. Equest is determined to have the best programs, the best instructors and the best horses to serve our clients. We believe that thrill and responsibility learned from competition is an important part of programs. All of these factors will be at the forefront in the planning for the new Rowlett facility. We are creating a new world standard in Rowlett for you and we want you to be involved in its development.
There is no doubt that Equest’s rapid growth has brought about some growing pains. And, I don’t expect that everyone will agree with every decision that has been made along the way. I also recognize that we must do a better job of communicating with you as we continue to grow and change. Please know, though, that Equest’s ongoing commitment to safety, quality and integrity remains the basis of every decision that we make.
Patrick J. Bricker
Chief Executive Officer
See WFAA's coverage of Equest Hooves for Heroes as part of Carry the Load Memorial Day Event!
A few weeks ago one of our long time volunteers, Jim Griffin, and I had the chance to visit Navasota to check in on Stormy and how he is progressing in his schooling with trainer, Tom O’Carroll.
From the minute we approached Stormy’s stall, we could tell that Stormy was eager to be put to work. He was polite and willing to do what was asked of him when being led and stood quietly while being groomed and harnessed. He was then hooked to the carriage where myself and a couple that works for Tom, all piled in for a ride. From the second I took the reins Stormy demonstrated what a perfect gentleman he has become springing into action at a nice, forward walk on my cue. He calmly waited for direction and executed beautifully all that was asked of him.
Jim and I were in for quite a surprise when it turned out that not only did we see Stormy, but we both were given the chance to drive a team of Percheron draft horses! I have never had that much power in my hands before! They were lovely and gave us a glimpse of what to expect from Stormy as he matures.
Stormy is in a beautiful setting, being trained by one of the most talented and gentle trainers I have ever met!
What a wonderful day! We are so lucky to have Stormy and can be so proud of his progress!
Staff from Equest had the opportunity to tour the Texas Horse Park construction site with key members from the City of Dallas on February 13, 2014. It was very exciting to see the progress. The new administration building has been erected and is now the interior rooms are being framed out. The barns foundation has been poured, and they were working on the footings for the covered arena. The surrounding property is so beautiful, it truly is going to be a world-class facility!
This is the new Equest Administration Building approaching from the front.
Above is the back view of the construction site.
The Admin Building is in the back, the barn foundation is in the foreground.
The covered arena will be on this site. Concrete footings have been laid.
Equest staff Alex, Leslie, Joan, Pat and Patrick at the THP construction site.
At Equest, the safety of our horses, riders, staff and volunteers is always our top priority. We have just completed 2 projects that improve our quality of safety for all of us in the Equest barn.
Our first project was scoring the concrete in the barn aisles. We noticed that the smooth concrete would get wet and slick during days of high humidity. For safety purposes, we needed to rough up the surface to help with traction and mitigate any slipping problems in the future. With the use of a mechanical concrete planer and a lot of muscle, the job was done in just 2 days. Of course, the horses were happy about being turned out in the pasture while this loud and dusty project was completed, and the humans at Equest appreciate the new and safer footing in the barn.
An even more extensive project, the Facilities Staff has been working hard to upgrade many of the older horse stalls. 15 stalls have been transformed in a matter of 3 weeks. These stalls had developed a distinctive height difference between the stall floor and the concrete walkways outside the stall, creating a tripping hazard for humans and horses alike. The barn crew has filled each stall with a fresh base of clay, then topped each stall floor with new rubber mats which will be bedded with shavings. The mats provide the horses with a cushioned platform to stand on comfortably. Interestingly, rather than using interlocking stall mats, our crew chose to use straight edge mats and glue them together - a recommendation from a contractor who stated that was a superior method to keep the mats from moving around. The final result will include filling the gap in front of each stall door with a concrete threshold, and ultimately, a safer stall that also is much easier to clean!
Take your passion to a new level and become a PATH International certified therapeutic riding instructor!
Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship in Wylie, Texas is hosting a PATH Intl.-approved therapeutic riding instructor training course May 28 – July 20. Join us for a 7-week immersion into the world of teaching riding and horsemanship skills to individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. The course is designed for experienced horse people, with a wide variety of riding backgrounds, who wish to pursue careers as therapeutic riding instructors.
For more information, please call us at 972-412-1099 or visit us at www.equest.org//itc-workshops/instructor-training-courses Application deadline is April 15, 2014.
Share your passion and make a difference in someone’s life!
Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship is proud to announce that CDR Jeff Hensley, U.S. Navy (ret.) has been awarded the 2013 Congressional Veteran Commendation presented by Congressman Sam Johnson.
The Congressional Veteran Commendation is a nominations-based program designed to recognize the wartime sacrifices and peacetime community involvement of residents of the Third Congressional District of Texas. Honorees are considered to be exceptional Americans in every way.
The CVC ceremony was held on Saturday, December 14 following a keynote address by Congressman Johnson who stated that this award was meant to “honor distinguished veterans and to preserve their stories for future generations of Americans”.
Jeff Hensley joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from the University of Texas, eventually going on to fly F 14’s. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Air Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal along with 3 Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
Susannah Denney, Jeff Hensley, daughter Kacey Henlsey,
and Hampton at the 2013 Gala
After retiring from active duty in 2008, Hensley experienced the benefits of equine-assisted activities and therapies within his own family, and was inspired to use the new GI Bill to earn a Master’s Degree in counseling. He was the recipient of a Mission Continues fellowship with the Equest Hooves for Heroes program in Wylie, TX, where he continues on as the Program Counselor.
In his nomination, Jeff Hensley is said to “work tirelessly as an advocate for veterans’ services and is constantly seeking to make the reintegration back into the community easier for returning combat veterans”.
As well as working with veterans and their families in the Equest Hooves for Heroes program, Jeff is the Regional Representative for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
"As our veterans heal, the warrior emerges again. They start to ride a little taller in the saddle. Smiles become more frequent. Hearts hardened by combat grow softer in the presence of the horses --- softer, but not weak. Being more open to love makes them stronger than they were before. From this place, warriors can shift the focus from just getting by to realizing their potential as engaged citizens and leaders in our community. They stand ready to serve again even if they no longer wear the uniform of their country."
We encourage you to read the blog in it's entirity at http://www.bushcenter.org/blog/2013/12/16/back-saddle-again
Dressed in my blue staff polo. Clipboard filled with the day's lesson plans. Microphone on hand ready to bring the arena alive. A rainbow of cones, poles, and barrels brightening the ring. Four volunteer-horse teams outside ready for tack checks. And last but certainly not least, four eager little riders waiting with varying degrees of patience on their bench, craning their heads around the corner to try and catch a glimpse of their horses. All is set and off we go for another lesson.
An hour later, enthusiastic calls of "Horse coming through!" ring throughout the barn as my riders proudly lead their horses back to their stalls. There are smiles all around, riders and volunteers alike, but I think mine might be the biggest of them all. As I make a pass through the barn to say goodbye to each rider and check on their horses, I can't help but think to myself, "Is this real? This is MY job? It just doesn't get any better than this!"
It's been more than six months now since I became an instructor at Equest and what a time it's been! Every day, every lesson, every HOUR brings new experiences, lessons, and adventures of course. Of course, there are sometimes challenging days when things feel a bit more like a circus than a riding lesson, but some of life's most important lessons can only be learned in the challenges. Although the list of lessons that my experience as an instructor has taught me could probably go on endlessly, there is one that stands out about the rest: Flexibility is your best friend!
This should be stamped on the brain of every therapeutic riding instructor! Or every person in the world for that matter! Coordinating up to five riders, five horses, 10-plus volunteers into a lesson that is challenging, fun, educational, and above all safe is easier said than done! Antsy riders, crazy weather, you name it, we encounter it all! The key is to work with what you ACTUALLY have, not with what you were PLANNING for. Often, these classes turn out to be even better than the ones that go exactly as planned! I discovered the truth of this fact just last week:
Lauren Woodcock as C3PO and the rest of her Drill Team Students
A nasty cold front blew in bringing with it buckets of rain which forced our Drill Team class to ride inside. Because our indoor arena is so narrow, we couldn't practice riding our pattern at all. Naturally, everyone was a little disappointed. Not for long though! To encourage teamwork and to refine their skills in riding with their partners, we played a game with...toilet paper. Yes. Toilet paper! (Did I mention that creativity is almost as important as flexibility!?! ) Each of the three pairs of riders was given a strip of toilet paper about three feet long by their volunteers who were dubbed "Toilet Paper Specialists" for the evening. Riding teamed up close beside their partners with one holding each end of the toilet paper strip, each pair carefully headed out to the rail of the arena and began walking gingerly around. The goal of the game was to be the pair who made it the longest without tearing the toilet paper strip that was stretched between them. Laughter, groans, and cheering echoed throughout the arena for the next half hour as those six riders worked their very hardest to stay RIGHT NEXT to their partners to keep that toilet paper from breaking! By the end of class, all of them were focusing and riding next to their partners better that I'd ever seen before! Even when they were extra challenged by receiving not only more difficult maneuvers to execute but also shorter pieces of toilet paper, attitudes remained positive and the pairs rode beautifully! (Too bad we can't use toilet paper strips in our performances!) Usually a drill team lesson in the indoor arena ends with everyone worn out and desperately hoping for sunny skies the following week. However this time, when everyone was lined up to dismount their horses, it was all smiles among the shreds of toilet paper and they were asking to do the exact same thing again next class! SUCCESS!
So next time you find your circumstances heading in a less-than-ideal direction, remember: stay positive, enjoy whatever ends up happening, and be flexible! And if all else fails, grab a roll of toilet paper and come join the Friday night Equest Drill Team fun!