Mar 22, 2010

Albuquerque Journal Visits Crossed Arrows Ranch and home of Horses For Heroes

Writer Phil Parker and photographer Morgan Petroski of the Albuquerque Journal came out yesterday afternoon to visit some of our veterans and to see about our Horses for Heroes Cowboy Up! program. Please see the text only article below our pictures from the day.

By Phil Parker And Vince Kong
Journal Staff Writers

On a ranch south of Santa Fe, Andres Lazo showed some friends the rips in a cloth cover he was wearing over his combat helmet when shrapnel from an EFP, or explosively formed projectile, tore through and hit hard enough to dent the helmet. He still carries a piece of metal doctors pulled from one arm after that explosion.

“That helmet saved my life,” he said.

“That’s why you’re ‘Lucky Laz,’ ” said rancher Rick Iannucci, as he wrapped Lazo up in a hug. Lazo, 26, is a University of New Mexico student back after a 13-month Army deployment in Iraq. He and CNM student Keith Coronel, 32 and a 10-year veteran of the Navy, were at Iannucci’s Crossed Arrows Ranch, 3774 N.M. 14, on Sunday for spring’s first day of Horses for Heroes, a program Iannucci started last year with Pecos riding instructor Christina Savitsky. Iannucci is an ex-Green Beret and U.S. marshall. He founded Horses for Heroes, H4H, after he heard of a program in 2007 out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where disabled soldiers were placed in therapeutic horseback riding programs. The program is intended to help returning veterans cope with the stress of integrating back into civilian life.

“There was a vacuum, in my opinion, between what the veterans administration ... and other government agencies were doing, and what was really happening,” he said. “They all do a great job but they’re out-gunned. The numbers of soldiers coming home are too big.”

Iannucci explained that the life of a working cowboy is very similar to the life of a soldier. Since part of H4H is about reintroducing soldiers to civilian life, not only will veterans learn basic horsemanship but other skills as well.

“This isn’t just about getting on a pony and riding around an arena,” he said. “The cowboy culture is almost a parallel to the warrior culture. When these (veterans) came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, they were lost in a lot of ways.”

Sunday was easy for Lazo and Coronel, the only two vets on hand to work with the horses. At least five more are expected to join them in the coming weeks, and Iannucci expects closer to 20 soldiers by the summer out of the Wounded Warrior Project at the University of New Mexico.

While a kettle of coffee stayed hot on a nearby campfire, the pair picked dirt from the hooves of two black horses, then brushed each one simultaneously. As they rubbed across either sides of a horse’s belly, it looks like it’s in heaven — eyes glassed over and closing, lower lip dangling open and vibrating slightly.

“A lot of being out here is just being outside, on the east side of the mountains,” Lazo said. “It’s nice bonding with the horses. It really happens.”

Coronel said he never saw combat in his time in the Navy, but as president of CNM’s veterans club he knows others who have. He’s recruiting them to join him at Cross Arrows Ranch, he said, because he knows it will help.

“I like it out here,” he said, “it’s very relaxing, very laid back, and you really engage with the horses.”

Lazo and Coronel are just in phase one of the program, learning the basic horsemanship of riding and bonding through grooming and saddling. Once they get those techniques down they’ll graduate to the second and final phase that includes farm work like branding, mending fences and working with livestock. Then they’ll have the skills to branch out and work at other ranches.

Iannucci envisions pairing H4H with Turquoise Trail Wranglers, a 4-H club he also runs out of his ranch.

“Now these soldiers will be helping out,” Iannucci said. “They’ll have a new mission, which what they’ve been looking for.”

H4H is endorsed by New Mexico’s Military Order of the Purple Heart and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.

Also on hand Sunday were an HBO documentaries film crew and Sgt. Andrew Brandi, a Vietnam War veteran, author and outspoken advocate — at the state and national level — for improving care of returning veterans.

“Never in the history of this country have so few people gone through so much combat,” he said, noting that World War II and Vietnam War vets saw an average of less than 260 days of deployment, whereas Iraq and Afghanistan’s veterans average more than 1,000 days at war. “They come back with no de-boot camp.”

Brandi has given workshops on coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he plugs the 4H4 program at every opportunity.

“If they want to come back and learn to be cowboys, that’s great,” he said. “What Rick’s doing with them is very similar to training; it’s like the code of honor for a warrior.”

Said Lazo: “Over there, you’re always on a mission mentally. This gives you a new mission, a purpose. And they welcomed me with open arms. It’s so nice here. It’s a big thing to come back and be with someone who cares.”

NM Cattle Growers' Association Press Release

Program Brings Veterans, Ranchers Together

Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP!, a Santa Fe-based program that uses horses and horseback riding to help treat soldiers returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, will start working with its first group of soldiers March 20.
“We are proud to support the Horses for Heroes Program, and look forward to playing a bigger role as the program grows,” said Bert Ancell, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President, Bell Ranch. The NMCGA voted to support the program at its recent annual meeting.
Program founder and former Green Beret Rick Iannucci started out with a pilot program last year. “I saw a big need – soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are coming home in droves, and there are few outlets to help them,” he 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 see an average of 1500 days of combat, and go directly into combat when they land on the ground. In World War II, soldiers 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! is staffed and operated by volunteers, many who are veterans themselves. Participants will learn to work with, care for, train and ride horses, work cattle, and experience the camaraderie of working with other veterans and ranchers. “Our program provides the veterans with the opportunity to recuperate, recreate and reintegrate into society and into our ranching community and cowboy culture,” Iannucci said.
Currently, ranchers including Mike Hobbs, Express UU Bar Ranch, Cimarron; Steve Price, Bonanza Creek Ranch, Santa Fe; Henry McKinley, Staple Cross Ranch, Santa Fe; Christina Savitsky, Pecos Bar X Ranch, Pecos; and Bob Frost, Caprock Creek Ranch, San Jon are involved in the program.
“Those serving in the armed forces are making enormous sacrifices, every day, to keep our families and country safe,” Ancell said. “As an organization and as individuals, we are glad to do all we can to help soldiers when they return home.”
The Horses for Heroes – Cowboy UP! program is the only program of this type nationally that is endorsed by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, according to Iannucci. “We want to show people what is possible, not what is probable,” he said.
Anyone interested in becoming a program partner can contact Horses For Heroes – Cowboy UP! through the website at or The program depends on donations, and hay, saddles and good working ranch horses are always needed. Online contributions can also be made through the websites.

Mar 3, 2010

Listen Anytime to Radio Interview...

You can now listen Anytime to the interview that aired yesterday: click link below:

Listen to the Interview Here

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Combat Trauma
United States Marine Corps Sergeant Andrew Brandi Vietnam war veteran, author of the book, The Warrior’s Guide to Insanity
Ellen Fox Psychotherapist
Rick Iannucci Director of Horses for Heroes- New Mexico Inc.- Cowboy UP!

Mar 2, 2010

Horses For Heroes on Radio This Morning!

Local Cerrillos area residents Sgt. Andrew Brandi, US Marine Corps and Former Green Beret Rick Iannucci will be featured on Mary Charlotte's Radio Cafe program KSFR 101 .1 FM at 8:00 AM Tuesday.They will speak about combat trauma, PTSD and the issues surrounding Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans and current initiatives to assist them. They will also discuss the Horses for Heroes- Cowboy UP! horse therapy and working ranch program that Rick currently directs and Andy serves as consultant to.
This is the only horse therapy program in the country endorsed by and partnered with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, NM.

For live Stream: cut and paste the below link in your browser: