Reigning Grace Ranch (RGR), a 15-acre equine therapy ranch located in Rio Verde, has created a new program that helps veterans reconnect with their families and the community following deployment. “Heroes & Horsepower” will be a program for military members to visit the ranch and develop horsemanship skills as well as therapeutic experiential life skills.
“We have several military families that have brought their children to Reigning Grace Ranch as form of therapy, and we have worked with the families as a whole, not just the children,” said Amanda Moore, co-founder of Reigning Grace Ranch. “We’ve had many requests to begin a special division of the ranch that works with our service men and women as an outlet for PTSD, development of confidence, life direction and purpose. “Heroes and Horsepower” is a natural component for the ranch to add because of the work we are already doing with our children’s programming.
Studies have shown that after deployment, approximately 12.5% of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts had PTSD.
“I had several struggles when I departed from active duty back to being a civilian,” said Chris McGraw, a volunteer at Reigning Grace Ranch. “It was a much harder transition that I had ever thought. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I was stressed about what to do for work, understanding how to acclimate to society and many other struggles that I really can’t put into words.”
Alex Dillon had a similar experience.
“Some of the struggles I had, when returning, was adjusting to the changes in my life that became routine,” said Dillon. “Also having to come home to a different house and try to understand that because I left, life back home kept moving forward.”
The new program, unique in its design and implementation, will begin in early 2019. While most equine programs focus solely on the veteran, Heroes and Horsepower will provide services for the veteran and their family.
“I knew the moment I pulled up that I needed this place in my life, and was pretty excited about it,” said McGraw. “For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel any anxiety or depression while I was on the ranch. I actually forgot about the stresses of my daily life and just focused on the moment and the beauty that is RGR.”
Dillon first visited RGR shortly after he returned from deployment. There to help out his sister, Kebra, with the mentoring program, he got much more in return. “Volunteering at RGR helped with my transition by showing me that I can be in control of what I am feeling and control what happens around me. Having such a large animal trust you to lead and guide them is such an amazing feeling.”
The goal of the program is to bring together the military community and their families in a serene therapeutic setting. The program, as it grows, will empower the veterans to lead additional groups and help others heal. But the primary objective is to provide veterans a space where they can convalesce and connect.
“This program will be an excellent way to reintegrate veterans back into our community because it will allow a quiet place to explore direction and purpose for their lives,” said Moore. “Veterans can heal from past trauma in an authentic way, individually, as a group or and with their families. They’ll receive tools they can use in their daily lives away from the ranch.”
“Becoming a volunteer at RGR has made a lasting impact in my life by just allowing me a place to go to just let go and let God,” said McGraw. “I want to give that same feeling of peacefulness and relaxation to all my friends that I have served with. I want them to understand how important they are and that they still matter. Plus, I want to make a difference in their lives by letting them know that I get it and I was there!”
To learn more about Reigning Grace Ranch, please visit azrgr.org.