Once upon a time, I made a wish that I could somehow combine my love for the military and horses into one ball of amazingness.  But how could that happen?  We don’t fight with horses on the front lines.  There were plenty of briefings during my deployment that usually included something along the lines of “don’t let COMCAM even look at the animals”.  What’s a girl to do?  For years, I schemed.

 

Chris Kresesky rides Perdita during a training session at Horses Help Heroes

 

Today, I found my place of amazingness.  A good friend of mine created Horses Help Heroes, a nonprofit organization that focuses on returning freedom to veterans and service members with service-related injuries and are battling PTSD and TBI using equine therapy.  Horses Help Heroes is based out of Beech Grove Farm in Gambrills, Maryland.  It’s a 25 minute drive from Fort Meade.

 

U.S. Air Force veteran Senior Airman Aaron Dockery rides Perdita during a training session at Horses Help Heroes

 

It is a huge challenge to adjust to a new normal.  There is no training for it.  Many, if not all of the veterans, experience frustration, loneliness, and so many more nameless emotions when dealing with this transition.  People deal with these emotions in a number of ways: picking up new hobbies, drinking, and taking pills that could potentially turn them into a zombie.  I know, I am one of those veterans.  Typical therapy didn’t do enough for my PTSD.  That all changed once I got involved with horses again.  I was a new person after that.

Equine therapy can help our veterans focus on redirecting their energy to the horse, who often reflects those emotions.  Through the horse, the veteran can help heal themselves.  Like Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

 

Dean Massey, the founder of Horses Help Heroes, rewards his horse Hannah after a training session.

 

Horses Help Heroes is a very new program.  There are still open slots for veterans and service members interested in equine therapy.  They are also looking for volunteers with all kinds of talents: horse handling, helping veterans during their lessons, grant writing, photography (there can never be too many of us!), graphic design, writing, and so much more.

They are also hosting a fundraiser that can be found here.  Help us help them.  If you can’t donate, please spread the word. Share this blog post using the links below.  Don’t forget to go to their Facebook Page and give them a like!

 

 

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The Problem

If you think taking care of horses are expensive, imagine how daunting it is when you have to rely on an erratic income of grants, sponsors, donations, and fundraisers. Nothing is really guaranteed.

Many of the horses that Freedom Hill Horse Rescue takes in have chronic or lifelong illnesses or injuries that require special feed or medications. For example, it costs $430 for the two medications needed to take care of Brocca’s Cushing’s disease. Without it, he is even more prone to lameness and infection. A few of the horses don’t have the best hooves, so they require a $200 bucket of farrier’s formula and a $45 tin of Keratex to keep their hooves in shape.

Then there’s spring vaccinations which can cost $1,400 and the combination of fall vaccinations and dental visits for a whopping $2,000 for all of the horses.

Unfortunately, the horses can’t go out and get a 9-5 to provide for themselves, so it’s up to the volunteers to come up with new ways to raise funds for the freeloaders.

 

 

Prints for Ponies: How You Can Help

I regularly photograph for the rescue and I came up with the idea of Prints for Ponies, which you can check out here. All of the photographs are of horses that are current residents or alumni of the rescue.  When you purchase a print, 70% of the profit goes to the rescue. The horses are totally worth it, and you get some beautiful wall art!  These prints and canvases make great gifts for horse-obsessed friends!

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It’s a question that is asked pretty often when people find out that I’m an equine photographer: “How did you get started?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to grow up around horses like many others did.  Instead, my sister and I would go trail riding a few times a year.  One time, we got really desperate and attempted to ride one of our grandparent’s steer around our property.  Buck was such a saint for putting up with our shenanigans!

It wasn’t until 2014 that I truly got involved with horses.  That was the year that I started volunteering at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue in Dunkirk, Maryland as a feed shift member and equine photographer.  It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Tucker, a 13 year old Saddlebred gelding, prances in front of a fence at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue in Dunkirk, Maryland.  Photo by equine photographer Kristina Truluck.

I have never had any formal education on photographing horses.  Instead, I relied on the training that I have in combat photography (which is the coolest job to have in the military, by the way) and information I found within the depths of Google.  Photographing horses and combat are similar in that you don’t quite know what to expect when you first get acquainted.  It’s unpredictable, messy, and a ton of poop is involved.

Junior, a 20 year old Welsh Pony gelding, pokes his head between the boards of a fence at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue in Dunkirk, Maryland.  Photo by equine photographer Kristina Truluck.

Volunteering for Freedom Hill Horse Rescue has opened the door to many other opportunities: vets, farriers and trainers wanting professional quality photos of them at work and horse owners wanting to preserve memories of their best four-legged friends.

If you’re a photographer, I highly recommend reaching out to a nearby rescue.  It’s a wonderful opportunity and the gorgeous photos helps get horses into their forever homes.

 

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