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February 16, 2019

Any Day at the Barn is a Great Day!

"Not just any day but every day at the barn is a great day," said Sara Garden, one of five volunteers to receive Ariat boots as part of the EQUUS Foundation Champions program, sponsored by Ariat International to inspire and reward equine service. The five Champions selected for the past quarter include: Dawn Caldwell, Mike Compeau, Sara Garden, Nancy Mercurio and Tom Schroer.

"Everyone has a story to share of how horses impacted their lives - how they bring us joy and help heal our wounds," said Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President, "especially Nancy Mercurio and her husband, Bill."

Nancy Mercurio

Nancy always had a passion for horses, inspired by childhood visits to the farms of her relatives in Minnesota and nurtured by horse activities at summer camp. In her twenties, she was lucky to own a beautiful palomino Quarter Horse mare, but had to give up riding when the demands of childrearing took priority.

It wasn't until many years later in 2015 that she and her husband, Bill, a veteran, happened upon Bravehearts and learned that as a veteran, Bill could participate in their programs for free. BraveHearts has the largest equine-based program in the nation for military veterans comprised of riding, ground activities, carriage driving and gentling wild mustangs.

Nancy said, "I jumped in with both feet to volunteer, dragging Bill along with me. It wasn't long before "my" passion became "our" passion and we found ourselves spending quality time together doing things we enjoyed."
EQUUS Foundation
Nancy Mercurio with Mighty, one of Bravehearts' gentled mustangs

"It was wonderful to witness the benefits that the BraveHearts participants had received from their bond with horses." Then, Nancy and Bill's world was shattered in 2017 and they plummeted into deep grief after finding their 28-year old son lifeless and unable to be revived from a drug overdose. This time, the BraveHearts family wrapped their arms around them and the BraveHearts horses opened their hearts and ears and were available to absorb their tears and sobs as they walked through that deep valley of darkness. "It was through this tragedy that we personally experienced the God-given, healing qualities of the horse," said Nancy.

Nancy said, "Bill is now a certified riding instructor, and a day doesn't go by that we don't thank God for putting us in touch with BraveHearts and these wonderful horses. God knew what we would need to help us cope with our future and how we could use it to help others."

Dawn Caldwell

EQUUS Foundation
Dawn Caldwell with Skyler

For Dawn Caldwell, "volunteering is a wonderful reminder that there can be honesty, peace and joy in a chaotic world - that is what it's like for me at RVHR every day I volunteer. Horses have no hidden agenda, they tell it like it is, and reflect back to me things I hadn’t even known about myself."

Dawn began volunteering with RVHR five years ago and volunteers as much as she can - given that she has to balance her time with the demands of a full-time job. Dawn has learned a great deal about rescue horses with the support and guidance of the Founder/CEO, Patricia L. Muncy. She mucks stalls, feeds the horses, does other barn chores - whatever is needed - and also helps with fundraising. "I want to do my part to ensure a future for RVHR," said Dawn, "and god willing and good health, I hope to provide more of my time to RVHR when I retire!"

Sara Garden
Access Equestrian
Valhalla, NY

After riding in her teens, Sara had to take a long hiatus when college, then a production career and living in the city made it a challenge to ride.

In her 40's, when she moved to the suburbs and left the corporate grind, she got back into riding. At the same time, Sara was introduced to Access Equestrian, and started volunteering.

"I'm loving it," said Sara. "As I say, any day and every day at a barn is a great day!"

"I am honored to be a small part of the Access Equestrian program. Watching the incredible difference horses make in the lives of both kids and adults consistently amazes me!"
EQUUS Foundation
Sara Garden & Kiki

Mike Compeau

Mike Compeau became interested in volunteering in 2017 after meeting Dr. Brian Garner of Baylor University and learning about the benefits of the bond with horses for individuals with disorders like autism, Down syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Returning home to northeast Ohio, when he learned that Fieldstone Farm was accepting volunteer applications, he applied immediately and, within a matter of weeks, found himself working with an incredible group of therapists, volunteers and students.

"I love volunteering! I've had a wonderful, rewarding time serving as a sidewalker and working directly with the students," said Mike. "Thank you to the EQUUS Foundation, Ariat, and Fieldstone for making the world a bit brighter and making 'Horsing Around' so fulfilling!"
EQUUS Foundation
Mike Compeau & Chance

Tom Schroer

EQUUS Foundation
Tom Schroer & Revel

Tom Schroer had no previous experience with horses when a newspaper article about Harmony Acres caught his eye, especially the part about needing volunteers. He had retired as a research chemist and moved from the East Coast to Western Colorado.

One visit to Harmony Acres was all it took. "Christy and Morgan at Harmony Acres gave me the chance to learn and trained me in everything I needed to know. The experience has been very satisfying, working with both the horses and clients, and has opened up an entirely new world for me. I can't thank Harmony Acres enough for this opportunity."

Tom's been with Harmony for four years, starting by cleaning the horse pens. He is now a horse handler and sidewalker for therapy rides and also helps in socializing and training a cart pony, but he adds, "I'm still cleaning pens too!"

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About EQUUS Foundation: The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, also known as Horse Charities of America, the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America's horses and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail: mail@equusfoundation.org, Website: www.equusfoundation.org.

About Ariat International: Ariat International, Inc. is the leading manufacturer of innovative performance equestrian footwear, apparel and belts. Featuring a patented technology designed to deliver stability, durability and comfort, Ariat pioneered the application of advanced athletic shoe technology into English riding boots and authentic Western boots. Ariat products are sold in a network of retail outlets throughout the world. For more information about Ariat products or for the Ariat retailer nearest you, contact Ariat at 800.899.8141 or visit www.ariat.com
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