The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Stable owner espouses horses as therapy
BY LINDLEY ESTES
Bonnie Williams, owner of Majestic Meadows Stables in Stevensburg, wanted to introduce military folks and first responders to the most effective therapy she knows: horsemanship.
The lifelong rider reached out to Horses4Heroes earlier this summer and then held her first open house for the organization Saturday.
She waited patiently for attendees—despite gloomy skies and occasional drizzle—along with five horses and just as many riders, ready with demonstrations of riding styles, pony rides and lunch for service members and first responders in the Culpeper area.
Though only two families attended, Williams said she was happy to be able to reach out to those people.
Williams and her team did demonstrations for the friends that were there to help out and then again later for the attendees.
“It’s still practice,” Williams said.
Horses4Heroes, founded nationally in 2006, makes horseback riding affordable and accessible for the families of service people, including military personnel, law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, critical care and hospice nurses, special needs schoolteachers and families who are struggling with chronic illness or disabilities.
The sponsors hold open houses across the country at 183 stables, such as Majestic Meadows, to get service people involved.
One of the families in attendance, a World War II veteran and his wife, understood the value of horsemanship, Williams said.
He previously worked with rodeos and spoke to Williams about the methods she uses at the stables.
Majestic Meadows teaches natural horsemanship to its riders and horses, which Williams said is a beneficial skill for service people to learn.
“Here, horses jump 3-foot jumps because they want to, not because the rider has a riding crop,” she said. “It’s about trust. We teach, not train.”
She said this trust is good for service people to experience, especially veterans.
Donna Dowell and her horse Charley performed a liberty demonstration for visitors in which she did activities and played with the horse without a lead line.
“It lets you know what your relationship is with the horse,” she said. “It shows trust on both sides and builds a bond with the horse.”
Dowell’s daughter-in-law, Rhonda Dowell, demonstrated western riding styles and techniques at the event.
She and her mother-in-law care for their horses together.
“My daughter is usually with us, too, so we have three generations,” she said.
Williams said building a family bond between soldiers or first responders and their families is an important aspect of Horses4Heros.
“We don’t own these horses,” she said. “They are our partners for life. We are moms and dads and siblings and friends. It’s the difference between family and platoon members for them. At some point, you have to leave that platoon mentality at the door.”
Toni Sheads carried the American flag into the ring before the demonstrations on her mule Miss Delta.
“We want to honor our soldiers,” she said. “We want to help, too. Horses help with anger management.”
Williams also did a demonstration on freestyle riding, showing how body movement can help one relate effectively to horses.
Her horse M’Lady Faire had only a rope halter without a bit.
She guided the horse primarily through body language.
“There’s no need for bits when you have trust,” she said. “With freestyle riding, it’s just trust, love, language and leadership. That’s what our American heroes need.”
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976