In 2015 while researching serving military veterans with disabilities through Equine Assisted Programs, we quickly discovered that we were not dealing as much with physical injuries of war as with combat stress, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and multiple blast exposure.
These invisible wounds with lasting effects are the signature injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 22 veterans complete suicide every day. Serving them would require entering the battle to save their lives. With their very unique needs, an organization exclusively serving veterans and their families would be most advantageous to succeed in such a mission. Together with three co-founding veterans, Paul Carro (US Army, Vietnam), Allen Gondeck (US Marine Corps, Iraq) and Deonne Boxer (US Army), the search was on for a farm where we could offer a safe haven and a healing environment exclusively for our region’s wounded warriors and their families.
Drakestown Equestrian Center in Long Valley, NJ, presented exactly such a place and Project Horses for Forces was founded in June 2017 and received its 501(c)(3) determination in November. The seclusion and serenity of the farm brings an immediate sense of peace to anyone who enters. Surrounded by forest, the 46-acre farm lends itself perfectly to our mission and purpose. The rustic New England barn, the Staff Sergeant Mike Moretti Stables, nestled between the trees and lush pastures, provides a safe space for our participants to spend time and develop partnerships with the horses and the supportive veteran volunteer team.
16 / Sport and Trail Magazine
Project Horses for Forces, Inc
Long Valley, NJ
Story and photos by Ruth Nortje, Founder and Director
PATH Intl. Riding Instructor
© Annette Turnbaugh Photography