Who amongst us has never been on a horse? While no equestrian, I did once recklessly mount a big old horse roaming my grandfather’s apple orchard on his remote backcountry farm in Lunenburg, Vermont—way back when I was 11 or so.
My cousin Kenny used apples to lure the horse over next to a big rock. While the horse was distracted by Kenny, the plan was for me to leap onto the rock and onto the horse to ride the horse around the farm before surprising the adults back at the farmhouse.
The fact that I knew nothing about riding horses didn’t stop me. It couldn’t be that hard. I’d seen countless Indians ride bareback on television.
The plan worked! I was soon on the back of the giant beast. But despite my tugging on its mane and pointing where I wanted it to go, the horse chose to go away from the farmhouse.
(In “hindsight,” this was probably a good thing.)
Back towards the orchard went the big horse, despite my protestations. And I didn’t realize how high up off the ground I’d be. Then the horse started to run. That was not part of the plan. Increasingly terrified, I held on for dear life. The horse—apparently quite smart—headed for a large apple tree. It ducked its head under a big branch and literally scraped me off into the tree.
Kenny came running to see if I was dead. I was quite alive, but my shirt was torn up and my back was bleeding in numerous places.
“We won’t talk about this to anyone, right Kenny?”
Kenny agreed. But when we returned to the farmhouse my tattered shirt and bloody back did not go unnoticed.
“What in blazes happened to you?” asked my grandpa.
“Um. I fell into an apple tree.”
“How in blazes does anyone fall into an apple tree? Tell the truth!”
“Mike jumped on the horse,” said Kenny. “It was all Mike’s idea!”
To quote Mark Twain from Tom Sawyer: “Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of this scene.”
All of which brings us to Moonshadow Farm in Epping, N.H. and “Operation Renewed Freedom.” It’s there that Geraldine Duncan and friends take care of horses, ride horses, and actually share horses with veterans in need of healing and wellness.
As Vice-Chair of the House Veterans Committee, I occasionally get invites to veteran-themed activities and events and the invitation to visit Moonshadow Farm in August seemed like one I could not pass up.
ORF’s published Mission Statement is “To help veterans, military members, first responders, and their families discover the FREEDOM to LIVE ABUNDANT lives and experience HOPE and HEALING, using a model of IMMERSION and EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING while partnering with HORSES.”
I got to meet some wonderful folks and not only made new friends but also learned about how to properly engage horses.
After several hours on the farm, I got to know a horse named Emma, owned by a wonderful woman named Deb. We all bonded and by the afternoon I was riding Emma, who patiently endured my presence and did not take off for any apple trees. Yes, it was indeed cathartic and therapeutic. Hard to explain.
As Ronald Reagan once said, “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”
I posted a photo of Emma and me on Facebook, of course. I soon got a message from Karen Caron, of Guildhall, Vt.—right next to Lunenburg. A fellow Groveton High School grad, Karen became a marvelous equestrian/horsewoman. She pointed out that her Stable Connections operation similarly used horsepower to promote wellness.
Karen explained that she’s “been certified in equine-assisted therapy for 12 years. Using horses for healing. We’ve seen over 700 different individuals in veteran workshops, team building for businesses, working with at-risk youth, schools, individual and family sessions.”
Who knew? Check out Stableconnections.com.
As Sir Winston Churchill said: “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”
So while I went several decades between horse rides I am so glad I visited Moonshadow Farm.
It helped erase the long-remembered trauma of the great apple tree caper on my grandfather’s farm.
And, by the way. Kenny was just as guilty as me!
State Rep. Mike Moffett of Loudon is Vice-Chair of the House Committee for State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs. He also serves on the House Education Committee.