Dec 23, 2010

New Mexican Stockman Article

The Magazine for Southwestern Agriculture
Official Publication of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association

Article: Veterans, Ranchers Working Together to Help Returning Soldiers

Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP!, a Santa Fe-based program to help veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan by using horses and horseback riding, is bringing New Mexico ranchers and veterans together. Free to veterans and active military, returning soldiers learn to care for and ride horses, then learn other ranch tasks, including working cattle, and eventually assist in workings of participating ranches.
Program founder Rick Iannucci, former Green Beret and retired U.S. Marshal and now a rancher himself set up the initiative based on similarities between military and ranching cultures that he felt could help his fellow veterans.
“The values of the ranching community are almost an overlay of military values,” he said. “The no-nonsense attitude and work ethic are exactly the kind of atmosphere our veterans are used to. It’s something you just don’t get hanging at the mall or working at any many other jobs.”
Veterans suffering from both post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or physical combat injuries from service in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF) are welcomed into the program but there are participants who have seen combat in Bosnia and Somalia too. “I saw a big need – soldiers are coming home in droves, and there are few outlets to help them,” Rick said. “We take regular people, send them over to Iraq and Afghanistan and train them how to fight. Then, we bring them home, sometimes without even a thank you, and expect them to turn it off and reintegrate automatically. It’s not happening.”
Today’s veterans go directly into combat when they land on the ground, seeing an average of 1500 days of combat. In comparison, soldiers serving in World War II saw an average of 120 days of combat, and Vietnam Veterans saw an average of 240 - 260 days of combat.
Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP! helps meet some of those returning soldiers’ needs, giving them an opportunity to spend time with others who have had similar experiences. “Our veterans come back from the military, where everything is mission oriented, into the civilian world. They miss having a mission, and they miss the camaraderie of their military brothers,” he explained. “When they come to us, they get a new mission. As soon as they start learning we have them start teaching too, because as you teach someone what you’ve just learned, it reinforces the lesson.”
“We basically show them how to apply their military background and training to something new, while most people are telling them to suppress their military skills,” he continued. “I help them relate those skills to what we are trying to do with the horses and the cattle.”
Rick says he started working on the idea for this program in 2007, and did a pilot project. Initially, he did therapeutic riding work with one soldier suffering from severe PTSD. “When we saw the transformation in this man, and how working with the horses and coming out with us for spring branding and such benefitted him, we knew we wanted to do more.”
Rick also partnered with Pete Comstock, Commander of the New Mexico Military order of the Purple Heart establishing the Warrior Mentor Program. Through this program, returning veterans are paired with combat veterans from the same service and generally the same MOS
( Military Occupational Specialty) , to the benefit of both, he said.
The Cowboy UP! program consists of twelve objective, which include specific tasks and skills taking them from basic horsemanship to working cattle horseback. Graduates receive a purple wild rag, which symbolizes their partnership with the Military Order of the Purple Heart as well as being very practical on cold frosty mornings. Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP! is the only program of this type nationally that is endorsed by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
“There are various horse therapy programs around the United States but we are the only ones doing what we are doing,” he noted. “It’s a different focus – we do help participants bond with horses but take it to the next level if they want to. It is all up to them, the sky’s the limit.”
Rick says that the program focuses on what is possible, rather than what is probable, and that attitude is evident in the program’s first graduate, Sterling Bucholz, U.S.M.C./Ret. who received his wild rag in October. Bucholz served in Iraq as a Machine Gunner with the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, and was struck in the head and severely wounded by enemy sniper fire receiving the Purple Heart and a Navy –Marine Commendation Medal. He returned home in 2005, and suffers from severe PTSD in addition to brain trauma.
After completing the program, he was offered a position with the San Cristobal Ranch.
“We train to standard, not to time. It is a completely self-paced program, and doesn’t matter how long it takes for a veteran to make it through those twelve objectives,” Rick said. “Sterling rocketed through the program in less than a year. Some others just come out and groom the horses and enjoy cowboy coffee and conversation around the fire, and that’s ok, too.”
Quantifying participation in the program is difficult because it is relaxed and self-paced, but Rick said dozens of veterans have taken part. “We have some who come a few times, and some who get very involved. Right now, we probably have a dozen participants at various stages – from the guy who comes out every day to the guy who comes once a month.”
“We are very proud of all our guys,” he continued. “When we have new veterans coming out for the first time, a number of our current participants are always there because they want to help their brothers.”
Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP! is staffed and operated by volunteers, most of whom are also veterans as well as cowboys or accomplished horseman. “Several of our staff who help instruct and support this effort were veterans that remember coming home from Vietnam and being greeted by protesters. It was a terrible time to be a service member, and we were often treated very poorly by the public,” he explained. “At the ranch, we do all we can to welcome new veterans and to let them know they are coming home.”
None of this would have been possible without the support of the ranching community, Rick said, and he is blessed and thankful for program partners including Mike Hobbs, Express UU Bar Ranch, Cimarron; Steve Price, Bonanza Creek Ranch, Santa Fe; Henry McKinley, Staple Cross Ranch, Santa Fe; Bob Frost, Caprock Creek Ranch, San Jon; Grant and Connie Jo Mitchell, San Cristobal Ranch, Santa Fe; and the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.
New program participants are referred through the New Mexico Military Order of the Purple Heart, different groups and units of the Veterans Administration Hospital , the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) for combat wounded soldiers just coming off of active duty and the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Veterans department. Occasionally, a veteran who has heard about the program through other channels also seeks them out, he noted.
Another important aspect is the program’s close relationship with the Turquoise Trail Wranglers 4-H Club, which Rick and his fiancĂ©e, Nancy DeSantis a primary Cowboy UP! Instructor and co- founder also founded and used as a model for Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP! “Our two groups, are more like a family – all of my veterans show up to help out with the kids’ events, like the ranch rodeo we put on every October. The veterans want to give back, and to help out, and spending time together is good for the kids and the veterans.”
Future plans include construction of a bunkhouse at the ranch and additional corrals for program horses. Horses for Heroes – Cowboy Up! receives no funding from any government or any other source so they will hold their first benefit dinner December 9th at Vanessie’s Restaurant in Santa Fe. To help support or learn more about the program, visit their website at or call Rick at 505 670 2059.

Dec 14, 2010

Thumbs Up for our Cowboy Christmas!

Good evening and big welcome to all the veterans, cowboys, associates of the Cowboy Up! program, and supporters of Horses for Heroes, New Mexico INC.

Though I'm not with you in this room tonight, I can feel the energy, the compassion and the brotherhood that went into creating this special gathering. When truth, trust and patriotism come together like it has tonight distance has no effect on the power that resonates outward. We feel the power no matter where we are; in country on a mission, or safe here in America; horseback on a mountainside, or back at the chuckwagon laughing with the crew. Tonight we are all blessed to be connected to this amazing project, and we count ourselves lucky to be included in such a special group of people.

Relax, enjoy the great meal and the company, and let's give thanks tonight to all those who deserve it.

Tim O'Byrne

Horses For Heroes - NM, Inc. Cowboy Up! Advisor
Editor / Publisher
Working Ranch magazine
Branded #1 by America's Ranchers


Nov 30, 2010

On the radio with Mary Charlotte

Listen to our segment on Radio Cafe by clicking the link below

Listen to the Interview Here

Nov 21, 2010

Christmas de Caballos Parade

We were honored when Melanie Scholer of the Corrales Horse and Mule People asked us to be the Grand Marshals for this years Marine Corps' annual Toys For Tots - we of course accepted and today was the day! They provided us with a wonderful red wagon driven by Gus Kefallinos and Ralph Abeyta. His team carried our veterans along with his mascots Lizzy and Chico to greet all who came out to see the parade and donate toys - thank you all!

Crossed Arrows Branding November 20th

We branded the last of our cattle this past Saturday before turning them out to winter pasture. Some of our program veterans participated in the branding themselves with the roping chores being done by our good friend and neighbor Mr. Henry McKinley and his son Ward.

Because of the size of the cattle Mr. Henry and Ward rope and stretch out the calf in order to receive the brand. After the first roper ropes the hind legs and drags the calf to the fire the ground crew will go in to 1). fold the foreleg prohibiting the calf from getting up and 2). attach the rope to the steer's horns so that the second roper can complete the stretch in order to receive the brand. Now that is old school! To illustrate this I have put various pictures together in order sequence:

Cowboy Up! Road Trip to Visit the Mavericks

On November 18th we accepted an invitation from Randy Chambers, Asst. Ranch Manager to visit the Vermejo Park Ranch in Cimarron, NM. Our Cowboy Up! crew had the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the only genetically pure bison herds in the world. This herd of bison are the ancestors of the same prehistoric bison that wandered the plains thousands of years ago.
We stopped for lunch at the Historic St. James Hotel, posed for a couple photos where Jesse James and other notable characters have also spent time then we were off to speak at the Maverick Rodeo Club monthly meeting. The Maverick Rodeo Club was established in 1922 and is one of the oldest rodeo clubs in the country. We were honored to speak there about our program and even more honored when we were all presented with membership cards to this great organization.
We are proud to now have the Maverick Rodeo Club as our newest program partner.

Nancy, sterling, Randy & Johnny

St. James Hotel in 1872 - Click photo for Larger view

St. James hotel in 2010

The chutes at Vermejo Park

Sterling, Johnny, Rick, Shyle & Mike Hobbs from the Express UU Bar Ranch.

Nov 19, 2010

Nov 15, 2010

New options available to treat PTSD |

Please click the video clip to see KOB Eyewitness News 4 Jeff Maher's interviews with some of our Cowboy Up! Veteran Participants...

New options available to treat PTSD |

Nov 6, 2010

A Cowboy Christmas - December 9th, 2010

Click invitation for Larger View

Please join us for A Cowboy Christmas Benefit:
Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Hosted by: Vanessie's Restaurant, 434 W. San Francisco Street
Santa Fe, NM
5:00 - 5:30pm Cocktail Reception
5:30 - 6pm Guest Speaker
6:00 - 7:00 Dinner

Tickets are $75 per person or $100 at the door.
Corporate tables of 8 are available.
You can purchase tickets via our Donate Link to the right or call:
Nicole-(505) 450-8850 or Rick-(505) 670-2059

If you cannot attend please consider purchasing a ticket for one of our Cowboy Up! veteran participants.

Your Donation Is Tax Deductible!

Nov 4, 2010

VA/PRRC Visits Our Cowboy Up! Program

On November 3rd an outstanding group of veterans from the VA moseyed on up to join us for the day. handshakes and smiles were plentiful on a beautiful NM fall day. Veterans were started as we always do with grooming, ground work and before long were in the saddle. Our four legged instructors carried every veteran that attended through not only introductory horsemanship but a few challenges that were even more advanced. After dismounting and caring for the horses and stowing the gear, we enjoyed some cowboy coffee, hot coco and great conversation round the fire. Our cowboy hats are off to a hard charg'in group that we were honored to have here. Welcome home brothers.

A Great Sunday Session October 31st

Here Kristy is working on the use of core muscles and leg aids to guide her mount through poles

One of our active duty participants using 100% determination to work on his horseback skills prior to his next deployment.

2010 NM Veterans' Wellness Conference

Cowboy Up! staff and participants attended the Veterans' Wellness Conference Clinicians Day on Friday, October 29th, 2010 - An integrative approach to treating veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sec. John Garcia's vision to bring a wellness center for PTSD here to NM based on the Fort Bliss Restoration & Resilience Center's innovative treatment program consisting of integrated state-of-the-art treatment modalities is exciting and necessary to say the least.

Senior Military Affairs Advisor to Horses For Heroes Cowboy Up! Program, General George Franzen, USAF ret., speaking about Sgt. Andrew Brandi's book The Warrior's Guide To Insanity. A copy was provided to every veteran!

Day two was Veterans' and Family Day where we had the chance to meet many of those who have served our country and offer them a chance to see what our program is all about by meeting some of our four legged instructors and watching demonstrations by some of our program participants - the response was superb. We were also honored to have spent a part of the afternoon with a visit from Cabinet Secretary John Garcia, his endorsement was inspirational to our hardworking staff and program participants.

Oct 18, 2010

Welcome Range Radio our newest program partner!

We are proud to welcome Range Radio our newest program partner. Range Radio on line 24-7 and in the Santa Ynez, California area on AM 1410 is the brainchild of former New Mexican Bruce Pollock. Pollock's innovative programing has combined real country with real western and is sweeping the nation's internet waves. Pollock has produced a 60 second Public Service Announcement featuring our program that is airing throughout the month of October. We are deeply grateful to this broadcasting visionary and his assistance in helping our program and our combat warriors.
Range Radio is just a click away through our links. Happy Trails.

Fall Work & A Purple Wild Rag For A New Cowboy

The crisp mornings of October brings us to fall cattle work on our program partner ranches in Santa Fe County. Gathering, sorting, vaccinating and branding remnants prior to weaning and shipping made the many early mornings for our Cowboy UP! staff and veterans worthwhile.We were also pleased to present a Cowboy UP! graduate with a purple wild rag symbolizing his completion of many months of hard work culminating with his going out with us to do the fall cattle gather and working. The purple wildrag is both practical as a piece of working gear that keeps you warm while horseback on those frosty mornings and symbolic as it represents our partnership with not only the Military Order of the Purple Heart but with the fraternity of cowboys everywhere.

Photo by:Connie Jo Mitchell

Photo by:Connie Jo Mitchell

Photo by:Connie Jo Mitchell

Photo by:Connie Jo Mitchell

Photo by:Connie Jo Mitchell