Crossed arrows, in many cultures, are symbolic of friendship and unity. At the Crossed Arrows Ranch, just fourteen miles south of Santa Fe, I recently discovered a special place that fosters both. The Ranch is home to a unique organization designed specifically for veterans and active military who have sustained physical injuries or combat trauma: Horses For Heroes – New Mexico, Inc.
Cowboy Up! is the organization’s wellness and skillset improvement program that offers veterans an opportunity to foster healthy relationships with one another, the ranch’s resident horses, and of course, with veteran cowboy and the program’s Executive Director, Rick Iannucci. Rick, along with Cowboy Up! Director and self-proclaimed “working cowgirl wrangler,” Nancy De Santis, recently guided me around the entirely volunteer operated ranch.
The ranch offers a supportive and calm atmosphere for the men and women who have proudly served our country. Upon entering the program, veterans begin interacting with the horses; learning first about the amazing animals and how to become their trusted, respected leaders. Soon thereafter, the veterans become an active part of the ranch, begin working with cattle and discovering the ropes of cowboy life.
Rick and Nancy, along with veterans enrolled in the program, have been hard at work constructing a new bunkhouse from the ground up. Nearly complete, the new structure will offer a comfortable gathering place to share meals, stories, and foster camaraderie.
And camaraderie is what the program is all about. Recently, Chris Chaisson (pictured below), a Cowboy Up! graduate and instructor was injured in a very serious car accident in Texas; he had to receive emergency surgery to his leg and back. Everyone involved with the program has rallied behind Chris, offering thoughts and prayers. In fact, Rick has arranged for a Samaritan Aviation Cessna 210 to fly from Montrose, Colorado to Santa Fe in order to pick up Cowboy Up! Special Forces Medic, Neil Reily. Reily will fly to the medical center in Dallas, and will offer medical support to Chris on his journey home to New Mexico. I pray for his safe return and quick recovery.
I’ve been riding since the age of 5 or 6, and understand the intimate relationship between a horse and a rider. To me, this valuable program underscores the important bonds of friendship. Hats off to the admirable work being done at Cowboy Up! at the Crossed Arrows Ranch!
To learn more about Horses For Heroes – New Mexico, Inc., or to attend their annual Christmas Dinner and Dance on November 30, 2012 at La Fonda on the Plaza, click here.