Horses Helping Heroes

Horses Helping Heroes

Horse enthusiasts John Knotts and Lori Seitz share their love of horses with others. They were drawn to help veterans, and especially those struggling to overcome post-traumatic stress, in honor of John’s 21 and Lori’s father’s and brother’s 30 years in the Air Force. 

 

Less than two years ago, the couple purchased 100 acres of pastoral land in Bulverde next to Tejas Rodeo on which to develop an equestrian center. Since then, Fine Print Farms has grown to encompass 30 horses and a handful of staff and trainers who run operations including horse boarding and training, riding lessons, and two non-profit organizations. One of these is Reckless Rangers Veteran’s Equitherapy, an equine-assisted therapy program, a member of PATH International, that uses horses to help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress. The non-profit  was officially created June 27, 2016, in honor of National PTSD Awareness Day. 

 

“When people are suffering from PTSD, they try to keep things that are bothering them inside,” John said. “A horse can sense anger, apprehension, anxiety. As an individual starts working with the animal they learn how to let go of those feelings.” 

 

Equitherapy sessions began in March and are currently held on Saturdays and are free to all veterans. However, many veterans visit Fine Print Farms more frequently. Participants initially are teamed with a trainer and a horse. They spend time grooming the animal to learn how to interact and respond. As they progress through the program, veterans learn how to direct a horse in a skilled way, eventually working through a course off the lead line through commands only. The Reckless Rangers program does not include riding, although veterans can pursue riding lessons if they desire. Therapy can continue until a participant becomes skilled enough to certify as an instructor, at which time, John hopes they’ll stay and share their experiences with newcomers. The program hopes to eventually serve 40 participants a week.

 

John said the vision of the program is to help veterans with post-traumatic stress live more productive lives. He noted several examples of remarkable transformation, including that of a participant named Kirk, a former military veteran with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. He and his family stopped by one day for riding lessons and discovered the program. Kirk began interacting with the other veterans and the horses and has progressed so far that he’s working off a lead line and has begun riding. The first horse he wanted to ride? John’s personal horse, Martial Law, a Percheron that’s the largest on the farm. 

 

“Kirk had some planning anxiety,” John said. “Now he comes here every week and is physically attending school. He’s changing, developing self-confidence, and even he can witness it.” 

 

John and Lori have designed the entire environment at Fine Print Farms to be part of the healing process. The place itself is open, inviting, peaceful, and relaxing. The grounds feature a clubhouse, fitness room, showers and a lake stocked with fish. 

 

“When you come on the property, you know you are safe,” John said. “You can talk to other veterans, and they’ll help you process what you are dealing with.” 

 

John and Lori both have full-time careers -- a business consultant and a lawyer, respectively -- but devote their off-time to Reckless Rangers and the for-profit portion of the farm, which caters to the riding sport of eventing. An equestrian competition, eventing is an Olympic event that involves English dressage, show jumping and cross-country jumping over a multi-day period.

 

“Lori has been involved in the sport for decades, and we hope to foster more interest in the underserved South Texas area,” John added. 

 

Fine Print Farms and the two non-profits continue to depend on an army of community volunteers to help develop the riding courses and reclaim/build structures to support the activities. Groups are always welcome. John can create a project to suit -- from painting a barn to constructing a jumping obstacle. 

 

Reckless Rangers derives its name from the most famous military warhorse, a mare named Reckless, who served in Korea with the Reckless Marine Rifle platoon. Sargent Reckless is the only horse ever given a rank and was decorated with multiple medals for her valor in battle. She made 51 unassisted trips to the front lines, taking ammunition and returning with wounded soldiers. A fitting moniker to grace an organization where horses once again partner in service to America’s military heroes. 

 

Learn more about Fine Print Farms and Reckless Rangers at www.fineprintfarms.com.

 

 

 

Several friends of the organization have planned a fundraising gala event Friday, July 21, at the Club at Sonterra, 901 E. Sonterra Blvd., 78258. Cocktails begin at 6:30, with a program at 7:30, including live music, dinner, and a special appearance by Miss Rodeo Texas, Tianti Carter. For details, contact Abby Efron at 210-601-0858 or abbyefron.txcr@gmail.com

 

Story by Amy Morgan