Our Goal is to
provide a trail riding opportunity veterans who have served our country. We strive to
provide the joy of a horse these veterans who have given so dearly.
While some of us have had the chance to experience the joy and serenity that comes from riding a horse, many will never have that opportunity, unless we provide it for them. For the past five years, the CHAPS and MPF have been creating programs and raising money to provide rides and equestrian experiences for veterans and disadvantaged children.
Just outside the Stanford campus in Palo Alto California are the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Wunderlich County Park, which is graced with the last public horse facility in San Mateo County. With the County's blessing and the support of private donations, CHAPS and the MPF strives to make this Park and the 104 year old Folger Stable an inclusive and welcoming environment for the general public and in particular, those less fortunate. .
Over the years, CHAPS and the MPF have raised funds for rides from very generous grants provided by WHOA! (Woodside Horse Owners Association). Other supporters include members of the community, the Woodside Community Foundation, Nordstrom's, Google and the Comandery of St Francis/Order of St. John. More than 200 rides and equestrian experiences for veterans and children have been provided. Veterans and children have the opportunity to interact with horses in ways that feel most comfortable. For most this involves riding, sometimes in an arena, and sometimes on a trail. For others, this involves interaction that involves grooming, learning how to lead, saddle, care and relate to horses. The joy and happiness on faces of these veterans and kids brings tears to our eyes.
The best thing for the inside of a person is the outside of a horse. CHAPS invites the community to partner with them in programs that facilitate the healing that comes through interacting with horses. Together we can make children's dreams come true and recognize our veterans for their sacrifice.
Excel Equestrian, owned by Mandy Alamillo, has been providing good horses, great lessons and understanding trail guides at Wunderlich County Park. For a short time, the kids and vets will enjoy a gentle horse, moving under the redwoods, feeling the beauty of the forest.
Veterans Riding Program - Horses for Hero's
Horses for Hero's provide free trail rides and lessons for veterans referred from the Veterans Administration Recreational Therapy Program. Through the efforts of CHAPS, veterans who have been referred from local VA hospitals have had many wonderful experiences on the backs of horses. Right now, we are working veterans from the Palo Alto VA - Recreational Therapy Program. We would like to open this to more veterans, but funding limits this. The program began in 2012 and in the years since, 255 rides have been provided, with 89 being provided in 2016. Below are several of their stories:
Horses for Heroes for Veterans - A Tale of Two Vets
This picture below shows two veterans and the therapist riding on the Alambique Trail in Wunderlich Park. The young lady in the front was a gunner in a helicopter and did two tours in Afghanistan. When she came to the program, her eyes blankly stared at the ground and she barely spoke. She was not yet 30, but seemed so old and worn out. I have no idea what kind of hell she went thru. She asked if she can she just brush the horse, and quietly did this for a long while. Slowly stroking and touching the horse. Mandy (the instructor) asked if she would like to sit on the horse, and she slowly nodded. When the horse took the first step, she let out a giggle. When we started the trail ride, she was smiling. The therapist said this is the first time she has seen her smile since she came home.
The gentlemen in the back recently retired after 20 years in the Army, and multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He grew up on a farm in Alabama, and had not seen a horse since his youth. Sitting in the saddle reminded him of his happy childhood with peace and joy, far away from the guns and the bombs.
Joey - Operation Iraqi Freedom
Here is a letter from Joey, and a picture of him with his new found buddy Calvin.
Another vet from Operation Iraqi Freedom
Mandy in the arena with a vet on his first ride, just learning how to steer. After just an hour, his confidence and ability were much better, and he was riding on the trail.
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