Experience Arabian Horses, Issue #1 - published in Arabian Horse Times

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On the cover: PA MARCO

By Marwan Al Shaqab Out of Cassandra SS Proudly owned by Connie Cole O’Brien Photo by Darryl Larson

Every New Year should start with new vision, new goals, new excitement; so there is no better time to launch a new way to promote the Arabian horse beyond borders than right this minute. So Envision … a new movement for all who love this great horse, who are passionate about its survival in the first century where horses are no longer considered integral to man’s survival. Envision a journey where we ALL come together to share their gift for making lives better, with people beyond our existing community. Envision how we can create a shift in how the world defines this horse that we all know, by demonstrating regardless of what we each do with our horses, how very much they do for humanity, both within our world and far beyond it. This is what Envision, in conjunction with the newly formed Arabian horse promotional fund, aims to do, and we invite you to join us. If you are one of us, already a passionate Arabian breeder, owner, or rider, Envision a world where we all are working to promote to the outside world what we know TRULY makes these horses unique. As the saying goes, “The eyes are the windows to the soul,” and there is no question that regardless of what you, the existing Arabian aficionado, does with your horse, the fact is that you were drawn to its side because of its soul, it’s innate and inherited ability to recognize what each of us needs to move forward in life, and its willingness to facilitate our journey. I’ve often said that if the world had an Ambassador Animal, it would be the Arabian horse. If these horses are a new experience for you, then read on and welcome! Then reach out to the people you meet through these pages and find out what we are talking about. We promise you won’t be disappointed, and that you will meet friends eager to share the Arabian horse experience with you. And be sure, when you meet your first Arabian horse personally, to look him or her right in the eyes—we feel sure you will immediately see, exactly what we are talking about.

Mary Trowbridge Mary Trowbridge

The power to invoke change … our horse, “Expressionaire,” wanted to meet this gentleman, a disabled, non-verbal veteran, when we were at Canada this year. He hadn’t raised his arm in over 3 months … Ar abian Horse Times | 2 | ENV ISION

All photos are of Multi-National Champion show horse CP Rock On, owned by Linda Reed of Newtown, CT.

Bridgewater, Connecticut Office: 860.354.8926 Mary Trowbridge: 860.488.7074 Patrick Trowbridge: 860.488.7101 www.TrowbridgesLtd.com Ar abian Horse Times | 3 | ENV ISION

There is a magical place to visit in Florida. You certainly have heard of it. It is a place where the weather is always perfect, and the animals greet you at the gates. It is a place where enchanted memories happen daily, and entire families enjoy. It is a place for the young and old. It is a place of thrills and wonders, where everyone “loves to wear their ears!” Of course, we are talking about Hennessey Arabians, and we welcome your visit!

We fell in love with Arabian horses and all the magic they bring to us daily. Breeders from around the world and our next door neighbors alike, have found something perfect in our pastures. You can too. We feel quality is for everyone to enjoy, so no matter what your involvement is with these wonderful horses, we invite you to share the experience. The beauty and grandeur of the world’s purest breed of horse have been celebrated for centuries. Bring your family to our farm and learn why.

George Z: 352.857.3384 George@hennesseyarabians.com

Ocala, Florida Frank Hennessey: 313.407.2070 Frank@hennesseyarabians.com

Riyan Rivero: 480.650.0731 Riyanha@me.com

www . hennesseyarabians . com

A Welcome to Arabians - Hennessey Style! By Riyan Rivero

Hennessey Arabians has certainly earned their great reputation of being a leading ambassador of the Arabian horse by constantly hosting newcomers to their farm. Hosting social and educational events introduces all demographics to the magic of our amazing breed. On December 9th, 2017, they continued their efforts by hosting a seminar introducing outsiders to the wonderful world of the Arabian Horse. Despite the sudden drop in temperature bringing bitter cold weather to the magical kingdom, the “HennesseyLand” cast of characters hosted a successful seminar introducing newcomers (and a few old timers)! The day included: “A Brief Look at the History of the Arabian Horse,” with owner Frank Hennessey “What Makes a Great Arabian,” with International Judge, George Z “The Benefits of Arabian Horse Ownership,” with Internationally acclaimed Eileen Verdieck Fantastic horse encounters and presentations by: Ocala Equestrian Academy - Horse Riding School - https://www.facebook.com/OcaleEqAcademy/ Jim Lauter - Founder of Balance Rider “Enhancing the comfort and confidence of both the horse and rider through balance training” - https://www.facebook.com/BalanceRider/ Chris Cook - President of Wild Horsemanship Center - https://www.facebook.com/chris.cook.98031 Sylvia Zerbini and her Grand Liberte Horses - http://sylviazerbini.com/ Members of the Ocala Arabian Horse Association were on site to answer any questions and to deliver materials on Arabian horse ownership - https://www.facebook.com/OcalaArabianHorseAssociation/

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riyan photo

visel photo

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Visitors were surprised with an amazing opportunity to buy a raffle ticket for the chance to win a beautiful purebred Arabian mare. Lucky ticket holder, Rachel Wolfe, had an early Christmas and will be taking home Eleuthra o. We wish her the very best with this beautiful and talented young mare. We truly hope that all the visitors enjoyed the day as much as we did. It was very special to see so many people interact with the HennesseyLand Arabian horses and to be a small part of what will hopefully be a wonderful memory for years to come.

riyan photo

Video Highlights


A n A rabi an I c o n by KARA LARSON

Every year, one seemingly ordinary Sunday is transformed into something quite the opposite—Super Bowl Sunday. As mountains of miniature hot dogs and tortilla chips fill paper plates, formerly calm adults revert to a childish version of themselves, shouting at the television in high emotion, and later, shushing the whole room as a Budweiser puppy commercial breaks up the big game. An American tradition that covers all the bases—athleticism, copious amounts of food, and the chance to get together with friends, the Super Bowl is a big deal for many. And that’s all fair, but for me, I didn’t harbor much interest until I heard there was an Arabian horse involved. This Arabian horse is Thunder, trained by well-known Arabian horse judge, Ann Judge Wegener.

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Arabian Horse Times Reprint from March 2014. Ar abian Horse Times | 7 | ENV ISION

In her 16th season as the trainer of Denver Broncos mascot “Thunder,” Ann began her training with Thunder 1, who was started by former trainer, Tom Hudson. When Tom went to manage one of owner Sharon Magness Blake’s farms in Santa Ynez, Calif., Ann took the reins on Thunder’s training. So having worked with Thunder 1, trained Thunder 2, now 20 years old, for 15 years, and Thunder 3, now 14, for 11 years, Ann’s history with the Thunder line runs deep.


“People ask me this all the time,” begins Ann. “They think an Arabian horse seems like an unlikely choice for a mascot for a high energy, crowded stadium with all sorts of stimuli. But to be honest, I don’t know a breed that could do it more efficiently or with more brilliance and intelligence than an Arabian horse. And they are so people oriented; once you’ve built that trust factor, they love doing for their people.” The follow-up question usually covers how Ann might desensitize the Thunders. And to this, she responds: “It really isn’t about desensitizing them because you can’t take away the natural character of the horse. They’re not desensitized— they’re very sensitive. But I feel like what I’ve done is try to understand the nature of a horse and then work with that. You have to understand that horses are flight creatures, not fight creatures, and so instinctually they’re going to run from danger. And you can’t, nor would you ever want, to take that instinctual response out of a horse. So the question becomes, how do you work with that flight response, versus trying to back it down? And I think that’s the big difference.”

Ther e ’s n o w a y t h a t yo u c an r e p l i c a t e a l l t h a t c razi n e s s , s o i n s t e a d , what I’ v e d o n e w i t h b o th o f t hes e h o r s e s i s s t a r t r ea lly s low l y w i t h w h a t I c all “faith walks”.


In preparing for the interesting situation every game poses, including 76,000 screaming people, pyro, flames, the wave through the crowd, and cheerleaders eccentrically shaking their pompoms, Ann says, “There’s no way that you can replicate all that craziness, so instead, what I’ve done with both of these horses is start really slowly with what I call “faith walks.” I’ll put them in situations or places that are a little unnatural to them and gradually take it further and further. I started out with both of them walking up my sidewalk to my house. Then eventually they would walk up the porch and then the deck, and so on. But I only did in a very gradual way.” From these “faith walks,” Ann and the boys do some other very interesting things to gear them up for the elevated stimuli of NFL game day. “I’ve really had to think outside of the box. They’ve been in parades, worked cattle, in the mountains and

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I n e ve r, e ve r want to put e ith e r o f th e se horses i n a p o sitio n wh e r e they feel l i ke th e y’r e in d a n ger. I al w ays wa n t th e m to look to me to ta ke ca r e of them.


this job, the less he’s afraid of it, but he still works the angles. There was a time when we would give Thunder a treat whenever the cheerleaders got past him with their pompoms. So now, even though he’s not really that afraid of them, as soon as the cheerleaders walk past, he puts his nose in Sharon’s pocket looking for a treat.”

water crossings and even elevators, ballrooms, and big parties. Sharon Magness Blake and her husband, Ernie Blake, host a Christmas party for 400 Boys and Girls Clubs kids from the Denver area. Thunder rides up the freight elevator to the Club Level to greet every child! So it’s been more a matter of putting them in a lot of really different circumstances.”


With years and years of trust built between horse and trainer, Ann certainly has a great deal of respect and love for her white steeds. “I never, ever want to put either of these horses in a position where they feel like they’re in danger. I always want them to look to me to take care of them.” Ann continues, “Because if they ever instinctually think I’m not taking care of them, that’s when you really instigate that flight response; and that’s what we don’t want. They both look to me for support and acknowledgement that everything’s okay.” However, it is inevitable that the horses have some insecurity in their job, and for Thunder 2, his discomfort remains with the cheerleaders and their pompoms. Ann says, “He’s not wild about cheerleaders when they get to shaking their pompoms over his head. He knows pompoms—he’s lived with them for a long time, but he just has never been wild about them. The longer he’s done

Another aspect of understanding and respecting the horses’ boundaries and limitations has to do with the age of Thunder 2. Now a 20-year-old horse, Ann and owner Magness Blake are aware of his future retirement, whenever that may come. So, this past season, instead of Thunder 2 doing all the preseason, regular season, and public appearances as the Denver Broncos mascot, both Thunder 2 and 3 were used. “This year we let Thunder 3 do the preseason and most of the general public appearances. He opened the National Western Stock Show, he was in a dancing horse event, and he went to the courthouse and had all of the representatives meet him, as well as the mayor and the governor. So that gave Thunder 2 a much-deserved break.” Ann continues, “It’s actually been really nice to have had the two of them to share. And when we figured out we were going to go to the Super Bowl, we decided to take Thunder 3. We sent him by FedEx and away we went!”


As Thunder 3 began his journey to the East Coast, the excitement surrounding his departure, journey, arrival, and everything in between was building quickly. With countless supporters reaching out to Thunder via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets, Thunder and Ann’s arrival to New York City was made an unforgettable one and something shared with millions of fans around the world. On this global connectedness, Ann shares, “When we got there, the advent of social media certainly

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made our arrival and then our whole time in New York immediately accessible to everyone. So I was really excited and privileged to be able to see how people wanted to keep up—not necessarily day-by-day, but kind of a moment-bymoment way. And that really surprised me.” To keep his new followers and fans updated on Thunder’s every step, Ann delves into their experience and how she shared the trip with horse lovers around the world. “We took pictures of him getting on the FedEx plane when we left, and by the time we had landed in Memphis, there was already tons of Facebook posts from the time we were in the air. And it just carried on the whole rest of the weekend.” Ann adds, “Every time Thunder was doing something, he appeared on Facebook. It really gave people a venue to ask questions and post pictures and share with their friends. I also had people texting me continuously, “Well, where are you now? What’s Thunder doing? Oh, we just saw him on T.V. What station is he going to be on next?” It was so fun!” Focusing in on his television appearances, if you are having a tough time trying to imagine an Arabian horse being in the heart of downtown New York City, you will not believe the journey this horse took throughout his busy press day. Ann shares, “First of all, driving a horse trailer in downtown New York City—I have to say, I don’t recommend it. But having Thunder there ended up being explosively exciting. We started out on the Today Show at Rockefeller Plaza. We parked right on the sidewalk and then led Thunder up into the Plaza. The crowd was really boisterous and egging the cheerleaders on, and their pompoms were waving all over the place, but Thunder just stood there the whole time. He stood there, looking around, nudging Magness Blake on the arm, calm and collected—on Broadway. It was so funny.” As the journey continued, Thunder’s first time in “The Big Apple” only got more interesting. “After the first show, we talked with the Fox Network and they asked if we could be on Fox and Friends. We said, “Sure, how far is it?” And their response was, “Oh, it’s only about a block, just across the street.” Well, 10 blocks later, we found ourselves still walking down a packed downtown sidewalk in New York City alongside people hustling and bustling to get to their jobs. We heard a couple say, “Oh, my gosh, there’s a horse on the sidewalk.” We were so unexpected!”

We l l , 1 0 b l o c k s l a t e r, we fo u n d o u r se lve s s t i l l w a l k i n g d o w n a p a cke d d o wn to wn s id e w a l k i n N e w Yo r k City a lo n g sid e p e o p le h u s t l i n g a n d b u s t l in g to g e t to th e ir jo b s.


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Ending up in the middle of Times Square, Thunder, Ann, and Magness Blake found their image blasted up on one of the iconic New York City jumbotrons. On this day, instead of a celebrity, Broadway show, or major advertisement, it was an Arabian horse. However, in Thunder’s eyes, it was just another day on the job. “What made it even more enjoyable was that Thunder was so relaxed.” Beyond the Today Show and Fox and Friends, Thunder and Ann also appeared on Good Morning New York, and a Denver affiliate of Fox. Ann shares, “We were in New York City from 7:00 a.m. until about 9:45, making the rounds. It was so much fun, and almost surreal. I remember Sharon whispering to me, “Look around, and remember this forever!” Almost having a ‘pinch yourself ’ moment,” Ann laughs. And people had a lot of fun with it. We received a lot of posts on Facebook of people who took pictures of their TVs and then texted those to us.” Luckily for Thunder and Ann, the journey to the Super Bowl consisted of more than just football and public appearances. Staying at a dressage and jumper farm for Warmbloods in New Jersey, the pair had opportunities to wind down. Worked mostly indoors, Ann and Thunder had the opportunity to trail ride when the weather got nicer. “While on the trail in the snow with a friend and her Warmblood, we met up with a group of hunters wearing head-to-toe orange. My friend stated, “Hey, you’re not going to believe who you’re seeing out here in the woods.” Then she told them about Thunder and they were just thrilled. I now have a bunch of photos with these hunters standing next to Thunder in the New Jersey woods!”


You just never know when the contacts that you’re putting out there in the world through Thunder, will make a real, positive change.


Beyond the Super Bowl parties and appearances and pompoms, it is easy to appreciate what special horses the Thunder boys have proven to be. This grand stage has brought the Arabian horse into the public eye like never before, and under the spotlight, they have been amazing “spokeshorses” for the Arabian horse and the Arabian community. “I think all you have to do is look on Thunder’s Facebook page to see how he magnetized the horse community over the whole weekend. And I feel so honored and humbled to be his liaison between the people world and his world. Now, anyone and everyone can see the bravery, the courage, the generosity of spirit, the character, and the kindness that horses have. He’s a great horse to do that and I feel honored

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to be able to have people see that. I never forget how lucky, how blessed I am, to be able to do this.” Beyond a spokeshorse for our breed, Thunder might also be taking on the job of role model for kids everywhere.

“Thunder is a hero, particularly to kids. He was the star of the show. There are some wonderful football players who do wonderful things for their communities and then there are some that forget how children look up to them and fall short.” Ann continues, “The thing about Thunder is that he is a celebrity who doesn’t do anything wrong and he’s always hospitable. He always loves talking to the kids. He always loves signing autographs. And I just feel like that’s so important, that kids look up to this horse and he never lets them down. You never know when you make contact with a child who goes on to say, “I have to have one of these, or I have to ride one, or I want to go to a therapeutic riding center to help out, or I need to go to a horse rescue program and donate.” You just never know when the contacts that you’re putting out there in the world through Thunder, will make a real, positive change.” n

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bessey photo

Please accept our open invitation to the historic Varian Arabians Ranch located in beautiful Arroyo Grande, California. Whether you are new to the breed or have followed the legends bred by our beloved Sheila Varian, we love to share the dream. Join us!

Angela Alvarez, General Manager, 805.489.5802 | 1275 Corbett Canyon Road, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420 | www.VarianArabians.com Ar abian Horse Times | 15 | ENV ISION

1. How much does a Goldie Statue cost?

$3,500 if you are donating the statue to a charity, $5,000 for statues retained for private use and not donated to charity, as the goal of this program is to raise awareness for the Arabian horse by enabling these life size images to be seen and to impact people beyond our community.

2. How do I order a Goldie Statue?

Contact mary@trowbridgesltd.com, becknash@earthlink.net, or lisa@lisabblackstone.com for an order form.

3. Who do I pay?

Payment is made to Arabian Horse Promotional Fund, and sent to 236 Henry Sanford Road, Bridgewater, CT 06752. All profits generated from the Goldie Project are earmarked 100% for use by the Market, Development and Promotional Committee to be used to promote the Arabian horse.

4. Does Goldie arrive gold colored?

No, Goldie comes painted in a base white, ready to be painted in the theme of your charity or in a theme that you choose. Goldie is the flagship prototype of the program, and is the only Gold Statue. He currently travels the country promoting the Arabian horse through viewings and programs like the new “Goldie Gives Back” campaign, underway in Region 8 now, where the Youth in the region are organizing a school supply drive to be awarded to a Colorado based school right after the New Year. *Note: As in cars, there are usually bubbles that crop up in the process of building the statue that will need light sanding and bondo prior to painting.

Project Goldie is a spin-off of the world-wide, successful Painted Cow Parade that utilizes a beautiful, life-size fiberglass statue of a distinctly Arabian horse that can be used in community art projects where the statues are sold to area businesses with the goal of raising money for different charities. After they are purchased, each statue owner picks a charity, an artist, and then has the statues painted and displayed locally for a time prior to donating them to the charities to be auctioned off at year-end fund raising events.

5. Can I have Goldie painted?

Yes definitely! We have had two different statues, Goldie and Warrior, painted by a car restoration company in Tulsa, who then had their air-brusher highlight facial features, manes and tails, etc., before covering it with a clear auto-coat. Others have been painted by well-known artists such as Duke Beardsley in Colorado who painted Sharon Magness’ Thunder statue, and Romero Britto in Florida, who painted one for Make A Wish. You can also paint them yourself, or turn them into an art project for Youth groups or schools. There are no restrictions whatsoever on your painting plans. A clear coat high gloss sealer is recommended upon completion. For more details about painting and for additional questions, you can check out cowpainters.com, who developed the painted cow parade concept and who build the statues for this MDP Project.

6. Once I have purchased Goldie, what are the next steps?

If you haven’t decided on a charity, start looking into it and contacting charities that you are interested in supporting. Charities will often want the statue painted before donation, but in some cases, for instance if you were wanting to benefit a school, painting the statue would be a great additional activity for the children and fit nicely with a live horse visit or

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So far, renditions of this beautiful Arabian, created by world-renowned artist Karen Casper, have been donated to raise money for several charities, among them the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, The Region 12 Spotlight Program, Autism, and a Colorado Childrens Literacy program. The goal of the Goldie Project is to use these statues to raise awareness of how the Arabian horse changes lives for the better, and to share the gift of our horses to people beyond our community. visit to a local barn for a literacy program at the end. Local artist programs are also a good area to find painters looking for projects, and can be a less expensive proposition than using a professional or car restorer. However, all of the above individuals may well be interested in participating in the charitable endeavor, so don’t be afraid to ask them to cut or donate their costs in the case of a professional artist or painter! **If you would like to embark on this project and don’t know where to go next, contact us at MDP! We will help you! Another concept that is underway are community art projects, where you can co-opt with a local Convention/Visitors Bureau to do a larger scale project among area business leaders and charities of their choice. Visit our website at arabianhorsesforhumanity.com for more information on what we hope the ultimate outcome of this project will be!

7. What kind of charities are most suitable for Goldie to participate with?

Any charity can be a good fit. Some easy combinations of horses and charitable endeavors include Literacy programs, both in school and outside, Children’s Hospitals (one is being created for St. Jude’s), Equine Assisted Learning programs and Therapeutic Riding Programs, and cancer research, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (Warrior was a statue commissioned by the MDP that was auctioned off in August to benefit LLS and the Warrior Horses for Warrior Kids program). Feel free to contact the MDP for help in brainstorming the outreach potential around this program!!

10. How tall is the statue and what does it weigh?

The statue is a true 14.3 hands at the withers, 78 inches high at the tip of the ears, 22 inches wide, and 92 inches long. It weighs approximately 120 lbs. without the base.

11. What do I use for a base?

You can purchase a metal stationary base when you order your statue, or you can build one out of two small dollies and some 2x4s to stabilize it. There are bolt holes on each leg to attach the statue to your choice of base; the dollies do facilitate moving the statue if you plan on displaying it at multiple sights.

12. Can the statues stay outside in heat and cold?

If they have a clear protective coat of paint on as a final part of the process, absolutely. If they are outside of a secure area, a secured position to discourage vandalism is suggested.

13. What is the best way to move the statue around?

The statues fit into a standard height slant load horse trailer, and with the wheels, are fairly easy for 2-3 people to maneuver. The ear tips are fragile, however, and when loading the statue in a trailer or through building doors, you MUST tip the back of the statue up to lower the front end enough to fit through many doors and trailer entrances.

8. What does the charity do with the statue, and what happens after it is painted?

The goal of the statues is to: 1.) Raise money for the charity; 2.) Connect people with Arabian horses; and 3.) Raise awareness for both the Arabian horse and the charity, highlighting the Arabian horse’s ability to affect lives in a positive, life-fulfilling way. So, once your statue is done, work with your community and the charity to display it in prominent places such as banks, hospitals, airports, etc., prior to its auction at year’s end. A cornerstone goal of the program is for participating farms and clubs to produce events featuring the statue alongside live Arabians from the area to introduce people to the Arabian breed up close and personal. As well, charities may be interested in having live Arabians at their year-end function to highlight the statue sale—use your marketing imagination and use this program to connect with and build new Arabian horse lovers in your area!

Should your statue need repair, auto shops can easily repair damage to fragile areas such as the ears. We recommend heavy bubble-wrap (takes approximately two big rolls to wrap completely) for any long trips, or heavy shipping quilts taped in place for shorter distances, just to protect your finish.

9. How does the charity benefit financially?

The statue is meant to be auctioned off at an event honoring the charity, or at its year-end fundraiser, with all of the proceeds dedicated to the named charity. Each charity may work differently, so it is feasible to discuss an “after expenses” agreement if that is an issue for the sponsoring party. The highest bidder at the auction receives ownership of the statue, and is then free to utilize it as they wish.

More Questions?

Contact the Market, Development and Promotional Committee: Lisa Blackstone, chair and Becky Nash, vice-chair, for any questions whatsoever. This is a great way to highlight your Arabian horse program in your community, reach outside of our existing audience, and prove that our Arabian Horses Give Back!! Ar abian Horse Times | 17 | ENV ISION

Why Arabians ... Why Atlanta Riding Club? WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT CHILDREN RIDING ARABIANS THAT THE WORLD SHOULD KNOW ? Learning to care for horses, teaches RESPONSIBILITY. Young riders learn to live up to expectations and develop the SELF DISCIPLINE to follow through on feeding, grooming and general care of horses. Riders learn GRACE in losing and are able to separate losing from being a loser. They lose one class, and come back and win another. They begin to understand that EFFORT equals RESULTS and they learn the benefits of HARD WORK. You cannot just buy a ribbon in this sport, the ribbons these children win are the direct result of the effort they put into learning and practicing. When that stubborn horse refuses to canter and they work on the cue over and over, they develop PERSEVERENCE and PATIENCE. Riders learn that horses are not mechanical, that communication goes both ways, and they learn to LISTEN to their horses. An invaluable life lesson is learning to listen as much as speak.

As they develop their riding skills, they develop a SELF ESTEEM that carries over to every aspect of their lives. The SELF CONFIDENCE that builds with each ride, is a self confidence that lasts forever. Riders develop SOCIAL SKILLS, camaraderie at shows is great. These great skills are all in addition to the fun and joy of being on a horse and developing great horsemanship and a PASSION for the horses. Academy programs across the country are a great beginning for youth to get off their IPads, connect to the real world, learn valuable life skills and compete in an exciting competition world. In Atlanta, the Atlanta Riding Club is one such place. It has 125 stalls filled with training horses. It is a component of VHTC, a full service Arabian farm that is training, breeding and selling horses year round. The staff works round the clock to keep their horses well-groomed and maintained. The Atlanta Riding Club offers more than just riding lessons, it offers an experience that can be shared by the entire family.

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Horses & Heroes

A Legacy Of Service With A Mission For Today by Mary Kirkman


hroughout her life, Bazy Tankersley was known for supporting worthwhile causes. One of her selections was particularly relevant today: therapy for veterans. With research estimating that 20 percent or more of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (even more when considering traumatic brain injury), the relatively new field of equine therapy has become one of the most promising treatments available. Tankersley’s choice was the Florida operation Horses & Heroes. Horses & Heroes was conceived as a division of Heavenly Hooves, which began providing therapeutic riding for disabled individuals in 2002. Service to veterans was added in 2006, and became official as Horses & Heroes in 2011, when its collaboration with the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine was announced. In 2014, both Horses & Heroes and Heavenly Hooves came under the banner of the McCormick Research Institute (Mrs. Tankersley’s maiden name). Importantly, Horses & Heroes offers a dimension that few, if any, of the other organizations sharing its mission do—research into why horses can be so effective and what the best practices are.

Above photo: Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo Military Night 2016, with an appearance by Horses & Heroes veterans. Ar abian Horse Times | 20 | ENV ISION

Why are horses unusually effective in therapy? “Horses are the only domesticated animal that is a prey animal in nature,” explains Thomasa Tompkins Sanchez, longtime friend of the Tankersleys who founded the organization, was its first instructor, and continues to serve as its volunteer CEO. “In the wild, horses had to continuously use their senses to be on defense from predators. They are the most honest, trustworthy animals, who are able to understand humans in a way that is far more developed than other domesticated animals.” During the first session with veterans, the horses are turned out with the “clients,” and over an hour’s time, they exhibit an uncanny rapport as they choose partners for the 10-week course. The most timid horse finds the most timid human, Sanchez reports, the most happy, the happiest, and so on.

Veterans from Horses & Heroes perform an exhibition ride at a central Florida rodeo.

From there on, exercises may be simple, but their goals are huge. The first priority is to promote a healthy state of mind that will prevent suicide (at a scary-high rate among vets with PTSD). “We weave emotional intelligence education throughout our program with the participants,” says Sanchez. That involves helping them to become more resilient—which becomes clear through the traditional verbal sessions with therapists that complement the equine experiences—and to understand their own thought patterns and practice strategies for adapting to civilian life. They learn to turn the trust and empathy they find with horses into similar emotions for people. The best reward, she observes, is when the veterans and their families tell them how critical the horses have been in changing—often saving—their lives. Currently, McCormick Research Institute and the University of Central Florida are in Phase I of a three-phase plan to provide fact-based information and curricula for equine therapy dealing with veterans suffering from PTSD. The research, which also examines the use of this treatment for autism, will be a resource for the future. “One of my goals since the 1970s has been to get therapeutic riding approved by the Veterans Administration,” says Mark Miller, Bazy Tankersley’s son and Chairman of McCormick Research Institute. “If we can prove that it works, I’d like to see us influence other programs to be sure that it is being ‘done right,’ both from the safety and benefits standpoint.” A recent addition to the MRI board, former Proctor & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald, who served as Secretary of the Veterans Administration under President Obama, offers the expertise necessary to pursue that goal. One key, Miller emphasizes, is Thomasa Sanchez. “She is a remarkable person,” he says. “I call her a force of nature. In a lot of ways, she reminds me of my mom; she is amazingly organized and she sees problems as opportunities. She just goes out to solve them.” n Horses & Heroes’ Willie, with his veteran, Cliff Bruton.

Photos by Mark Pino and Thomasa Sanchez Arabian Horse Times Reprint from September 2017.

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