The expansive grounds of the Walter Reed Hospital held a very special family event on July 12th 2008 in the courtyard of the Malone House (so conveniently located on campus and serving as a hotel for the families of our veterans). What an honor it was to become a member of the family that day, and especially to share this honor with my horse, Jack, and my United States Park Police Horse Mounted Patrol colleague, Ret. Ofc. James “Bullet” Watson. They both joined me as an invitee to share a warm atmosphere with the recuperating heroes and their families.
You can always tell when a horse is happy. Since Jack is a 9-year-old quarter horse, he is old enough to appreciate youth and he thoroughly enjoyed introducing the children to the life of a police horse! And, in his capacity as a police horse, he recognized the many soldiers who came to acknowledge his presence, and he certainly appreciated them bringing him water. I could not help but imagine the life of the cavalry horse, so grateful for the soldiers’ attention and care. Yes, Jack was happy but he did have to get used to the Blues band. He is more accustomed to country music and Big Broadcast radio!
Bullet, a retired Marine as well as retired police officer, expressed his heartfelt sense of humility in the presence of the next generation of recuperating veterans. He appreciated his own military life and the life of the veterans, and their families, and Operation Homefront. We both felt it to be an honor and a privilege to be invited to this event. It offered us an opportunity to thank the soldiers in our own small way for their tremendous service and sacrifice.
The uplifting environment emphasized to me the importance of the families as a whole adjusting in tandem with the individual soldiers. It made me realize that families and veterans alike could experience and benefit from a huge dose of equine-assisted recreational therapy. I want to share with the many soldiers and families a therapeutic riding program we have going with the Rock Creek Public Stables right near Walter Reed Hospital – it’s called the Ride Well Program. It’s specifically designed for recuperating soldiers and offers great opportunity for establishing balance, sensory-processing integration, self-confidence, and regaining large motor skills, objective thinking, and verbal skills. And it’s just plain fun. We also welcome recuperating soldiers to come to the Park Police Stables nearby where we offer ground work with the police horses, which is excellent for fine motor skills rehabilitation and reclaiming muscle memory.
For any family of a recuperating soldier, for any recuperating soldier, the United States Park Police Horse Mounted Patrol welcomes your interest in the Ride Well Program with open reins! We welcome able-bodied volunteers, in fact strong volunteers in case a recuperating veteran needs help getting on a horse. We offer riding in Rock Creek Park and learning about horses when you are not riding them. And every child is welcome to become a Junior Park Police Officer!
If anyone is interested in joining the Ride Well Program as a participating rider, or a volunteer, a helper in any way, please call Janet Counts, Facility Manager, Rock Creek Horse Center, at 202-362-0117, ext. 7.
By US Park Police Horse Mounted Officer Barbara Blendy with HOOFS Volunteer, Pamela White