When Retired U.S. Navy Veteran, Ray, came to Loudoun Therapeutic Riding for the first time, he instantly connected with two of our horses, Lola and KJ. He was not sure what captured him, but describes the experience as a magical first impression. When Ray first met KJ, he scratched him under his jaw and KJ promptly responded by resting his head on Ray’s shoulder and letting out a yawn.

“KJ actually slept after our warm and much needed embrace” says Ray. “For the following weeks, I would come and groom KJ. This simple repetitious activity helped to reinforce our bond that still continues today. Despite the fact that I cannot ride him due to my size he’s still my friend.”

Ray continues, “Lola stands about 6 feet at the back level and her head is about 7.5 feet. She’s this beautiful chestnut with a very calm demeanor. Though she can be stubborn just like me. Similar to KJ, Lola and I have built up an inseparable bond. She senses when I am having a bad day and allows me to center myself.”

His observation on Lola’s behavior is exactly why horses make wonderful therapeutic partners. Horses are hyper sensitive animals and can sense when their human companion’s mood, thoughts and feelings have changed. Our participants observe their horse’s reaction to their mood or actions and must re-adjust in order to maintain a positive working relationship.

Ray’s connection to the herd at Loudoun Therapeutic Riding has inspired him to get back into painting, another activity that helps him find his inner peace. Ray summarizes his experience at Loudoun Therapeutic Riding with the following poem:

On the darkest of days and nights in a world that can be bleak with no end in sight

the warmth of their powerful touch,

the beauty in their eyes let me know everything is alright.


Your donations help us provide equine assisted activities to veterans at no cost to them or their families. It’s our way of thanking them for their service and paying it forward.

“Your generous contribution will allow others like me the chance to smile, to laugh. To feel inspired despite whatever challenge they’re facing in life.”


Equine Services for Heroes participant