Susan Gibbons 2017-10-06 06:13:05
Reigning Liberty Ranch “War is horrible!” Johnathan, who served in Iraq, exclaims. War’s effects can be both visible and invisible in returning veterans. Reining Liberty Ranch offers a place of healing for veterans, their families, and their community. Trust is a huge issue for many veterans, so the ranch has been designed to be a safe environment where trust can be built at an individual’s pace. Kathy Huseltine, described as the ranch mom, says, “You see the fruit in people’s lives.” The first stop on a tour of the ranch is the homestead. No one resides there, but it feels like an old, comfy, welcoming home, a safe space. Veterans meet each Thursday around the kitchen table, fondly called the gathering place. The ranch has developed a community of veterans, “and we feel like a family,” notes Huseltine. This November celebrates Reigning Liberty Ranch’s 5th anniversary. Dennis Bigelow, a Navy Veteran, and his wife Becki made their vision of Reigning Liberty Ranch a reality. Walking the ranch, it is amazing what has been accomplished, but they still have dreams yet to manifest, like workout stations along the perimeter trail. “Everything we do here is something veterans want to do,” explains Huseltine. “It’s all veteran led.” There are colorful, friendly chickens that roam about the yard. The veterans chose the breeds and because of the variety of hens, volunteers gather multicolor eggs of green, brown, speckled, white, and even burgundy. Eggs are available to the public for a donation. The veterans also wanted a garden on their ranch, so the Veteran Community Garden was planted and has blossomed. The garden includes a picnic table at its uppermost corner designed and crafted by a Vietnam veteran. The pergola near the center was designed by another veteran with money raised from a silent auction. Yet another veteran built the green house. A lot of volunteers, veterans and non-veterans alike, serve together to create a healing environment for those most in need of peace. There are several spots spaced around the ranch from the garden to a perimeter bench where veterans can repose and breathe in the quiet and watch the happenings of the ranch, like the horses and goats. A core program is Grand Traverse Horses 4 Heroes, offered in three phases. Phase 1, all ground work, is relational. A program participant learns the language of the horse. Participants experience that it is not about controlling the horse, but about building relationship with the horse. Horses have been described as mirrors to our feelings. Being around a horse raises self-awareness which can then translate into the veteran’s human relationships. “You can see light coming back in their eyes when there was none,” relates Huseltine. Phase 2 is therapeutic riding with side walkers. Feeling the movement of the horse as it walks influences the rider. A horse’s unique walk transfers variable, repetitive, and rhythmic movement to the rider. The resultant responses in the rider are similar to human movement patterns of the pelvis while walking. In Phase 3 of Horses 4 Heroes the participant gains more advanced horsemanship skills. Veterans often come with debilitating injuries. They have isolated themselves, they live without hope, and often their families don’t understand what they’ve gone through. The ranch provides a haven to heal and to re-enter the community. “They served us and now we’re serving them,” says Huseltine. The veterans who have been through the programs often stay on to serve and mentor other veterans. The veterans are here for one another: help give a ride to an appointment, help with moving, help just by listening. They like doing things for one another as a team. With just a glance through Reigning Liberty Ranch’s Facebook page, one can see they have received generous community sup-port. Huseltine says they have been blessed and all is so very appreciated. “It’s more than coming to ride a horse program,” notes Huseltine. “We’re a Veteran’s Program – ideally the veterans will take over and run the place someday.” The ranch has become a catalyst of healing through relationship building with the horses and with one another. The program is completely volunteer and dependent on contributions and grants. The ranch also offers horse boarding to offset some of the expense. Reigning Liberty Ranch is open to the public on Memorial Day. For more information: www.reininglibertyranch.org or 231-421-3958. Susan Gibbons has been a Northern Michigan freelance writer since 1999. Susan also owns Sara’s Legacy Pet Sitters, offering professional, loving care in your home. She shares a home with Danni, a 10-year old black lab mix and Woody, a tuxedo cat.
Published by Families First . View All Articles.
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