Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center – “Where Veterans Ride Again!”
The latest from our guest blogger Dutch Henry.
“He saved my marriage. He saved my family … He saved my life.” A teary eyed David Buckley told me. “Clint doesn’t even know how many lives he’s touched. How many he’s turned around.” David is a veteran of both Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and now a volunteer at Lonesome Dove, where just 8 months ago he came seeking relief from the death grip PTSD had on him. And his family. “When I first came here all I could think about was those horrible visions in my head. I never had any peace.” David wiped his eyes, took a breath and smiled at me, then waved his hand in the air toward the big arena. “Here. Here, I have peace. Thanks to all this, Clint, the volunteers, the horses … My mind is clear and happy here.”
When I visited Lonesome Dove recently the first thing that struck me was the feeling of welcome, love and confidence. It floated in the air like a protective shield and seemed to say, “Here everything is possible.” A few moments later I had a real understanding for why that aura of optimism hovered there when I met and spoke to Clint Arrington, founder of Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center. Early in our conversation he told me, “I’m not interested in what a veteran can’t do. I only care about what they can do. Lonesome Dove is a ‘Can Do’ place.” I experienced it first hand a little later when they gave me a lesson with Harley, one of their wonderful therapy horses.
Starting with 3 riders, Clint founded Lonesome Dove in January of ‘08 to provide year round equine assisted therapy for veterans with special needs. To date over 500 veterans have participated in the wonderful programs offered here, and range in age from 20, to their oldest rider who will celebrate his 92nd birthday this year. Veterans who have served in every conflict from WWII to the war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan with a variety of challenges such as amputation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain surgery have experienced the healing and hope the spirit of a horse passes on to its human partners. And there is never a cost to the veteran or their families. “They’ve paid enough.” Is all that Clint will say.
Lonesome Dove is a lovely place with indoor and outdoor riding arenas. Both have viewing areas for family and friends; and special lifts to gently assist the veteran onto the horse, if needed. Inside there is a delightful “Gathering Room” where volunteers and veterans can assemble to go over plans and lessons, or just visit by the fireplace on a cold winter day. “Socializing is a big part of what we do here.” Clint laughed. Next to the outdoor arena is a large pavilion where veterans, friends and family can “Socialize.” That’s where we sat to watch the lessons, and the Drill Team, the day I visited. At the end of each session the vets and volunteers share a meal and have a closing ceremony where every first time rider gets recognized with a trophy.
Wanting to experience the full effect of what the veterans felt I asked Clint if I could be a side walker during a lesson. He carefully explained what the leader, right and left side walker do and positioned me on the left. As I walked next to Harley holding the rider’s ankle and thigh I felt the magic, and saw the rider’s smile broaden. Clint smiled at me. “That’s what it is all about.” He said. Next I had a lesson on Harley, complete with exercises, ball tossing and mounted basketball shots. I tried to explain that I can’t shoot baskets very well … but, no “Can’ts” are allowed here at Lonesome Dove. So I moved Harley real close to the basket and managed to make a few hoops.
There are nearly 50 volunteers who help make the magic happen at Lonesome Dove, and I spoke to several the day of my visit. Some, like David, first came as participants and just need to stay and help others. Some like, Gail Black, who started volunteering in January, do it because as she told me, “I love to see the vets on a regular basis. To see their outlook on life change. Clint gets them to do things they don’t believe they can do!”
Above the fireplace in the gathering room is a small sign that reads, “Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.”
Please have a look at their web site at www.LDequestriancenter.com . At Lonesome Dove veterans learn they can do a lot of “somethings” every day.
If you’d like Dutch Henry to write your story, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
His novel “We’ll Have The Summer” is available on Amazon and at www.dutchhenryauthor.com