Heroes Highlight Friday the 13th

There was no bad luck in the Celeste Center on Friday the 13th, just a huge display of patriotism and support for armed forces veterans as the second annual Heroes On Horses classes were held at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

The event kicked off with a parade of American flags, a color guard and riderless horse before the national anthem was played. Ten veterans competed in two divisions of the Heroes On Horses classes, one for supported riders and another for independent riders.

Disabled veterans or active duty "wounded warriors" who are participating in PATH Int. Equine Services for Heroes Programs or who have a Department of Veteran Affairs disability rating are eligible to compete in the classes. This year's classes were judged by Bob Kail, Clark Scoggin and Andrea Simon.

Family Affair Win for Richard Nash in Supported Class
For Richard Nash, of Westerville, Ohio, the win in the Congress and NSBA Heroes On Horses Walk Trot Western Pleasure, Supported Division, was special for the team that surrounded him.

"My daughter Lisa Benton and her partner Tim Funk started the Stock Hands Horses For Healing in Delaware, and I was able to use their horse Iggy for the class," Richard said. "My granddaughter Courtney was my leader. It was really a family affair."

Richard spent four years of active duty in the Navy. "I served two years on a ship and two years in Viet Nam. I find that the horses calm you down. You have to worry about the horse and not yourself," he said. "This is my first time to ride at the Congress. I guess you could say I started out on top! It's unbelievable."

"I think my dad rode horses when he was a kid, but he's only ridden a horse a few months, and we really only started concentrating on the class about a month ago," Lisa said. "We really enjoy working with the veterans in our barn, and we see how it's helped them so much. This is a great program and we're fortunate to live close to it and be able to participate. We brought five horses and riders to compete in it."

David Banks, riding Sweet Pea, took reserve champion honors in the Supported division. He served six years in the United State Air Force and four years in the United States Army in aerospace grounds equipment.

Helenn Voss Repeats As Champion in Independent Class
Helenn Voss, of Miamisburg, Ohio, may have had a different mount in this year's Heroes On Horses, Independent class, but the result was the same - taking champion honors in the class.

Last year, Helenn won on He Da Bomb, owned by Natalie Hilty. Although Natalie sold that horse, her new horse, Rock On Mr Cool, proved to be the perfect mount for Helenn to repeat the top award in the Independent class.

The 10-year Air Force veteran took a break from riding for several months this year when her own horse got hurt, but her trainer, Lynn Puthoff, saw a need to bring her back to the barn. She started riding and preparing for the Congress about a month ago. "Helenn has only ridden Rocky about four or five times," Lynn said.

"My mom was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, and coming back to the barn and riding brings me to my serenity place," Helenn said. "I love even the smell of the barn, and being around the horses makes me feel so much better."

As a former mental health specialist who served ten years in the Air Force including a tour in Operation Iragi Freedom, Helenn understands perhaps better than most people how horses can provide the perfect therapy for veterans.

"Horses absolutely can provide great therapy, especially for veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder," she said. "What I love about the class is that it gives riders a goal to work for. There are no winners or losers - we're here to have fun and celebrate the veteran. I hope the class continues to grow each year."

Ryan Krueger, who served two years active duty in the United States Marines in Chesapeke, Virginia, in security forces and presidential guard, earned the reserve award aboard A Touch Of Lazy.

Learn more about Heroes On Horses through the NSBA Foundation's page on the NSBA website, www.nsba.com.

The All American Quarter Horse Congress continues through October 29. To view the complete schedule or show results, go to www.quarterhorsecongress.com.