Mar 30, 2011

Aero BLSS Kits for PASGT Helmets

Personal Armor System for Ground Troops

If you have a son or daughter in Combat please send them an Aero BLSS kit for PASGT Helmets. I am not being paid to promote Aero Kits, it's just that when I heard about them from a friend who sent a set to her son and spoke of how much better they are over any other issued pads I was amazed. Apparently these pad kits were issued with the first 500,000 ACH helmets in 2005, but since then, less superior pads are being issued with the Advanced Combat Helmets. Why our government would send anything less than superior is beyond me which is why I implore you to send an Aero Kit to your loved one oversees.

Here is what, Mark O'Byrne, USMC had to say:

"When you're on the battle field it is inconvenient to keep having to adjust your kevlar or deal with the headaches from traditional head bands or low bidder pads. That is why I used Oregon Aero Helmet Pads on both of my tours in Iraq. They are easy to clean, durable, comfortable and they protect better from concussion."

Thanks Mark! The concussion statement really got me. With the amount of Traumatic Brain Injuries that our troops are coming back with, isn't it obvious that these are the only pads our combat troops should be using?

Nancy De Santis
Cowboy Up! Director

Here is a link to purchase the Aero BLSS Kit:
Oregon Aero BLSS Kit for PASGT Helmet

The Oregon Aero® BLSS® Kit (Ballistic Liner and Suspension System) and BLU® Kit (Ballistic Liner Upgrade) are widely regarded as the quality standard for ballistic helmet upgrades. Oregon Aero® Ballistic Helmet Pads can be used in the MICH Helmet, ACH Helmet, LWH Helmet, RBR Helmet, PASGT Helmet, Protech Helmet and Marine CVC Helmet, as well as Other Ballistic Helmets.

Developed for the U.S. Army Special Operations MICH helmet, Oregon Aero® Ballistic Helmet Pads meet the original specifications of the MICH helmet and exceed current U.S. Army requirements. Unlike other pad systems on the market, Oregon Aero® Ballistic Helmet Pads provide a high level of protection and comfort that encourages troops to wear their helmets.

Oregon Aero® Ballistic Helmet Pads benefits:

More Stable
Superior shock absorption
Flame Resistant
Moisture and waterproof
Positively buoyant
Gas and air permeable
Reduce sound reverberation
Install without any helmet shell modifications

Tests conducted at independent laboratories confirm Oregon Aero® Pads provide superior shock absorption.

Mar 24, 2011

Horses For Healing

Horses For Healing: is a Photo, Audio & Multimedia Production created by Rosi Calderon and Mindy Sayers. We met these fabulous women via Santa Fe Photo Workshops. This is their mini documentary on our Horses for Heroes - NM, Inc Cowboy Up! program. Interview with Cowboy Up! Director Rick Iannucci and Sterling Bucholz U.S.M.C./Ret.

Special thanks to Sterling who so graciously gave an interview after a long day in the saddle moving cattle with us - thanks Sterling!

Mar 21, 2011

Great Weekend!

We had a great busy weekend with some great visits from our Horses For Heroes - Cowboy Up! family...

Friday afternoon two of our Purple Heart Veterans stopped by on their way to the 4th Annual Bully Bash in Pueblo, CO. One took 1st, two placed 3rd, and another place 2nd in various categories - Good Job and congratulations!!!

Melanie Freeman from the Christian Science Monitor was having a visit taking some shots for the article coming out in April - be sure to pick up a copy!

OMG! Too cute for words!

Preparing for the "show stance".

Melanie fell in love...

...and Ranger did too!

What can I say..............................Priceless!

But before the guys left, they had to have a visit and say hello to our other four leggeds
Hollywood always has to get in on the picture!

St. Jack now sees the coast is clear... get all the attention...

...and loving it as usual!

So that's where Hollywood went, he saw the REAL camera!!!

Then on Saturday we had two Cowboy Up! sessions

St. Jack's first session of the season.

Cowboy coffee anyone?

To cap off the day we had our very own Carl Hawkins bless our tipi - Many Thanks Carl!

Carl Hawkins, (blackfoot),USMC RECON

Mar 18, 2011

Temple Grandin, PhD. & Rick Iannucci

On Friday, March 11th Dr. Temple Grandin Professor of Animal Science Colorado State University spoke in the Great Hall at St. John's College in Santa Fe. Her " Autisim, Animals And Different Ways Of Thinking" captivated a packed house as part of the Steiner Lecture Series.

Dr. Grandin and Rick Iannucci discussed ways combat wounded veterans currently participating in his Horses for Heroes- Cowboy UP! program were using her book, "Humane Livestock Handling" and how understanding the process of visual thinking has helped communicating cowboy skills to Veterans suffering with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).

Mar 7, 2011

Announcing Cattle Drives on Express UU Bar Ranch

We here at Horses For Heroes - NM, Inc. Cowboy Up! are proud to announce a collaboration with Program Partner Express UU Bar Ranch in Cimarron, NM.

Drum roll please...

Cattle Drives at Express UU Bar! City Slickers as well as experienced horseman can come out and ride on a real working Northern New Mexico cattle Ranch and participate in an early summer cattle working. Come out and be part of what less than 1% of the population is lucky enough to do for a living. Ride and work along side Cowboy Up! veterans on a four-night and three-day cattle drive. We are offering this to the public using our Cowboy Up! horses (limit to 5 or 6 persons) or folks who already have a horse. Dates are available in both June and August. Come and live the dream!

Call Sue Fullen at the Express UU Bar at 575.376.2035 to book or e-mail

Click on flier to enlarge:

Mar 4, 2011

Local Flavor Magazine Article

Emily Ruch, writer and Kate Russell, photographer did an OUTSTANDING job on our Cowboy Up! program in the March Issue of the Local Flavor Magazine - Emily's story is below.

Tall and slender, with rivulets of golden-brown hair cascading loosely down her back, my first thought when Nancy greets me at the door is that this woman is as stunning as she is strong. Before I have a chance to introduce myself, Rick comes striding across a ruddy stretch of Saltillo tile and shakes my hand warmly. He immediately offers me a cup of tea, and Nancy pulls three mugs from the cupboard. As we wait for the kettle to boil he asks about my time in the service, my family’s ranch and whether or not I take honey in my tea. Meet retired U.S. Marshal and former Green Beret Rick Iannucci and his fiancĂ©e Nancy De Santis of the Crossed Arrows Ranch. Together they administer the Santa Fe-based nonprofit, Horses for Heroes - New Mexico, Inc., and its visionary horse therapy and vocational rehabilitation program for veterans, Cowboy Up!

Steaming mugs in hand, we file into the living room and sink deep into the cushions of two overstuffed sofas. Rick is an eager storyteller, and by the time I’ve taken two sips he is well on his way to recounting how he and Steve Price of the Bonanza Creek Ranch shared an epiphany that ultimately led to the creation of Cowboy Up! He recalls the moment when, weary with the sweet exhaustion of a long day spent gathering cattle, they realized, “We know that it helps us to get horseback. We’ll get other guys horseback.” The room fades and I remember early mornings with my uncle, saddling up in the dark and slipping through shadows of mesquite and redberry juniper while dawn was just a thought on the horizon. Maybe, I muse, cowboys have had it figured out all along, and I mention what feels right to call the spirituality of horsemanship. “Which is huge for us,” Rick responds. “Some of the old timers get it. They don’t say it like we say it. You know, ‘I don’t know about no zen stuff, Rick, but I sure do feel right when I’m ahorseback!’”

That “zen stuff” is exactly what Rick and Nancy strive to share with veterans suffering from physical injuries and combat trauma. “The effects of war, especially in the space age, multiple deployments, the operational tempo is unlike anything anybody’s ever experienced before,” Rick says. “I see these kids comin’ off these airplanes—they don’t even shave and they’ve got a combat patch.” I shake my head, remembering the day my youngest joe celebrated his eighteenth birthday in a forward operating base chow hall. “Holy shit!” he says, “This kid will have seen more combat than all of his ancestors put together in his short little lifetime.” Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for young soldiers to serve three or even four deployments of twelve to eighteen months apiece in today’s modern, all-volunteer military, and some serve more, so it’s little wonder we’re seeing such a high incidence of PTSD among returning vets.

Rather than shying away from this overwhelming problem, or becoming paralyzed with despair, Rick and Nancy approach it in the no-nonsense manner of a cowhand mending fence—sometimes literally. Through partnerships with the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and seven member ranches, Cowboy Up! gives veterans a chance to try their hands at a variety of ranch-related chores, relying on the remarkable similarities between the cowboy and warrior cultures to provide them with vocational rehabilitation that goes far beyond preparation for a new career, and horses are at the heart of the program’s success. “The horse is the first equation of the program,” says Nancy. “When they come in here and work with horses, it’s their first
handshake of getting back to themselves and touching their center,” she says, “because they’ve been so lost, especially with coming back into society and trying to reintegrate.”

Rick leans over and selects a ginger cookie from a dish on the coffee table, considers it for a moment and then delicately nibbles off a corner. Between bites he tells me how a lot of the guys feel they get more from an afternoon on the ranch than they get from months of treatment at the VA. “No disrespect to the VA, they’re just outgunned out there. I mean they’ve just got people comin’ home in buckets.”

“I think that’s what nature does for our spiritual being,” Nancy responds, “You’re stuck in a white room, you’re already kinda tense.”

“And you’ve spent the last four or eight or twenty years,” I add, “being conditioned not to talk about that stuff.”

“Especially to somebody you just, like ‘What do I have in common with you, and why should I dig down and tell you anything?’ Whereas they get out here...” He glances out the window at the silvery folds of sagebrush-dappled foothills. “You know, we’re not counselors, we’re comrades. So when we sit around that fire up there, after you get off your horse, first of all you’ve already had a great experience ‘cause you’ve done the physiotherapy part of the horse—I don’t care who you are, you get on that horse you’re gonna feel fine. It’s just the balance, the motion, they even have a whole science called hippotherapy that delves into the movement and how—”

“—the horse mimics a human’s walking,” Nancy cuts in.

Horses for Heroes utilizes a combination of hippotherapy, therapeutic horseback riding and equine- assisted psychotherapy, but Rick and Nancy don’t get too caught up in the terminology. They’re happy to admit that they’ve stumbled, albeit with decided skill and intention, onto a powerful recipe for the restoration of body, heart and soul—equal parts camaraderie, American Quarter Horse and Turquoise Trail, a pair of fencing pliers and a pinch of faith—and they tailor the ingredients to suit the unique challenges faced by each individual veteran with impressive results. “We had a girl that was in a wheelchair for three years,” says Rick. “They just never dreamed she’d ever go horseback again. We got her horseback, and she’s ridin’ now and doing very very well.”

“Her horse,” Nancy says, “is her therapy.” She smiles and crosses her legs at the knees, faded blue jeans mirrored in a matching pair of friendly, blue eyes.

Beneath the tidy bristle of a horseshoe mustache, Rick is smiling, too. “The things that we see happening are just so rewarding, so magical at times,” he says. “You have the magic of the horse, and then you start seeing people transforming again, and the light coming back in their eyes.”

That sense of satisfaction is enough to make all the sacrifices and hard work worthwhile. Occasionally the nonprofit receives a donation, but it’s predominantly funded out of Rick’s pension. “The balancing act for me,” he says, “is not to put my family in the poor house while still maintaining operational levels of efficiency for the program. So that means the right amount of saddles, the right amount of horses. You know the expression ‘They eat you out of house and home?’ Well we get that, because they literally do.” By partnering with the VA and the New Mexico Military Order of the Purple Heart, who handle intake and vetting, they’ve managed to virtually eliminate administration costs, and none of the instructors are paid, so essentially every cent of every gift goes directly to the program. “Basically it goes to feed the horses,” Rick explains.

Of course, you won’t catch these two complaining, not least of all because they get to spend every day working with horses on their beloved (and breathtaking) Crossed Arrows Ranch. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” says Nancy, “the most rewarding.” I’m suddenly reminded of a freckle-faced girl in purple ropers and a pair of hand-me-down chaps, memorizing words like “fetlock” and “withers” and dreaming of one day growing up to be a bona fide cowgirl. When she throws on her old, tan cowboy hat with a hawk feather resting on the weatherworn brim, I realize this woman is living my dream.

With a knowing grin, I recite an old Arabian proverb—the wind of Heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears—and ask, “How have they managed to enchant mankind for so long?”

“Well, I like the Arab quote there,” says Rick. “Man’s search for meaning has always centered around things which are magical and majestical to him. The Indians call God the Great Mystery, and I think horses rank right up there with that level of creature. They are a great mystery.”

“The sheer size of them and beauty of them,” says Nancy with reverence, “I’ve always found that hard to put into words to be honest with you.”

“They’re scary and at the same time, they’re gentle. Kinda like the ocean,” Rick reflects, “When you see the ocean, you go, ‘Wow, that is just so beautiful.’ And waves are crashing, and you know that if you swam out there you’d probably get sucked right out into a tide and perhaps drown unless you can defy nature and death. e way I look at it is these creatures are gifts from God, and God has allowed us to establish a partnership with them to accomplish the things we need to do in life.”

“I’d say freedom, too,” says Nancy. “To be on that horseback and go with the wind in your hair and ride like the wind!” Unable to say it any better myself, I nod in agreement.

“You got a pair a boots?” Rick asks, without warning. “We might even be able to rustle you up a pair.”

As it happens, I have a pair of boots in my jeep at this very moment, “because I didn’t know what might happen when I came out here!” I say, laughing.

“Well, why don’t you come with us?” he asks. “You don’t mind if they get muddy, do you?”

Horses for Heroes - New Mexico, Inc. is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 505.798.2535. To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit the website or mail a check or money order made payable to Horses for Heroes - New Mexico, Inc. / PO Box 1882 / Santa Fe, NM 87504.

Mar 3, 2011

National Day of the Cowboy - July 23rd

After a long day of moving cattle yesterday we found out that New Mexico has delcared July 23rd as National Day of the Cowboy.

"The legislative clerk read the resolution and then about 20 members each rose to support it and say something about preserving the western traditions or their relative cowboys and work.

The resolution passed 70-0 and then the entire New Mexico State Legislature and gallery sang “Home Home On The Range”. Quite moving actually."

Thank you Richard Beal for keeping us apprised of this most important tidbit of information. We would have liked to been at the legislature to see this all come into being, but we were out Cowboyin'!

A beautiful sunset is alway like icing on the cake and quite cherished after a long day of work!

Mar 1, 2011

First two sessions of our 2011 season

We have kicked off our 2011 season these past two days, not many pictures of the cattle instruction because we were horseback instructing, but here are a couple from yesterday.

Don't forget to check our Public Facebook page for the pictures from our Tipi raising!