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"But it's just a horse"

It really bothers me when I hear someone say those words. My first thought is "well, they obviously haven't been around many of them." And then my compassionate side kicks in and wishes that they could experience the unconditional love from these majestic and powerful animals. Horses have always been a huge part of my own healing, and Shooter was one of those horses that really touched my life. A few years ago I sent him to live with my grandchildren, and they have given him so much love and he has really taken care of them. And I am so grateful for the love that they showered him with, especially Brindle. Today I had to help make one of those really hard decisions, to take him out of pain. My heart feels so broken, but I know it was the right thing to do, and now I just want to honor him for the amazing friend he was. And I would like to share a story about how much he helped someone heal, that I wrote for a book last year called "Inspirations" Published by As You Wish Publishing.

Sitting tall in the saddle

“Look into the eyes of a horse and let it awaken your heart’ ~Janice Story

A few years ago, I was introduced to a young US army veteran, Adam Rowland, who prefers to be called by his last name. A good friend of mine, Brandi Lyons, had been working with him at The Horse Rythem Foundation where he was learning to ride. This amazing organization founded by veterans, uses horses as the main focus in their therapy program. Rowland was improving his riding skills and was looking for more of a challenge in working with the horses.

My husband Kent and I compete in a sport called ranch sorting, where two riders on horseback are working together to move ten numbered cattle from one round pen into another in less than sixty seconds, and in numerical order. If a cow gets through the gate out of order you are disqualified. It is not only a requirement to be a skilled rider, it is also imperative that you have a great horse! It’s a tough sport, and we keep a herd of cattle at our house all winter in order to practice and perfect our own skills. Brandi brought Rowland out to our ranch one day to give sorting a try. He thoroughly enjoyed it and started coming for lessons with Kent a few times a week or as often as possible. He really started understanding the game, and we took him to his first competition in February 2014.

Now you may be wondering where this story is going, and what’s so inspiring about it, so let me fill in a few details that I left out. Rowland was on his second deployment in Iraq, stationed about thirty five miles northeast of Baghdad, when he suffered a blunt force trauma to his head causing a brain injury and loss of vision in his right eye. He was transported to a military hospital in Iraq where he spent about thirty days before he was able to return home. It appeared that his healing and recovery was going quite well, so the Army placed him back on light duty. He was forced to work hard learn to function with only the use of his left eye. Not long after Rowland was returned to full duty he started feeling severe stabbing pains in his head, that forced a return visit back to the doctor. He was given ibuprofen and sent home where his condition kept getting worse and eventually would take the sight from his right eye as well, ultimately leaving Adam Rowland completely blind.

The first time he rode at our house, Brandi and Kent put a bell on one of the cows so he could hear where the cow was, but that didn’t work as well as they had hoped, they had to figure out a different way. Rowland started riding my old Palomino gelding Shooter, and Kent learned how to communicate to him where the cows were. If two cows were close together, Kent would say inside cow, or the outside one etcetera. Rowland could tell from the sound of their hooves which one he needed to sort out, he would then give Shooter the cue, and push the cow out of the herd.

I will never forget that first competition Rowland and Shooter were able to compete in. There were a lot of riders warming up In the arena and horses everywhere. Rowland wanted to gallop some and that incredible horse always took care of him to the point that I swear he knew he was blind. Not many people there knew Rowlands story who he was, or that fact he was unable to see. When it was their turn to enter the pen for that first run the announcer asked everyone to please be quiet, so that he could hear Kent’s voice spotting for him. The crowd was in awe as they watched him ride and I don’t believe there was a dry eye In the arena that day! What an inspiration to witness this partnership as these two worked together. Ranch sorting is a tough sport when you can see what you’re doing, and here is this young man with no fear not only riding a horse, but chasing cows that he can’t see!

Rowland and Shooter continued their sorting partnership, and in 2015 Rowland earned a well deserved belt buckle from AZ Sorting Productions for champion beginner sorter. What an accomplishment he had made. Brandi and I both tried our hands at sorting with eyes closed one day, While Brandi ended up in the back of the pen, I got so extremely dizzy I thought I was going to pass out. Neither one of us was able to succeed in our attempt.

Kent and I have taken Rowland on many trail rides, and we have felt so honored to be a witness to his strength, courage, and willingness to trust. He will ride out in a field and ask the horse run at a full gallop, trusting both us and the horse that he will get stopped before he comes to a row of trees. Here is a man that has simply refused to let his trauma stop him from living a full life. It’s not been an easy ride, and there have been struggles, but he continues to rise and inspire others, and overcome all obstacles that have been placed in front of him.

Adam Rowland is truly a remarkable man, and a hero to be honored for serving our country so that you and I may be allowed to keep our freedom. His dream is to someday own his own ranch where he can train horses and help other veterans learn to enjoy and heal their own lives. I have no doubts that he will indeed be successful in fulfilling his purpose and mission! Thank you Rowland for being such an inspiration to us all!

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