Inside NOVA: Wounded warriors work on their equine skills

By Julia Ledoux | Inside NOVA | | April 15, 2012

NOKESVILLE, Va. — Doctor’s appointments and medical tests were forgotten, at least temporarily, as Marines gal­loped around a horse corral Fri­day, grins wide and a competitive fire in their eyes.

As part of the Semper Fi Fund’s Jinx McCain Horsemanship Pro­gram, 10 wounded, ill or injured Marines from the Corps’ Wound­ed Warrior Regiment at Quantico Marine Corps base were selected to participate in the Wounded Warrior Cutting Horse Classic III, held at the D&M Cattle Company in Nokesville from Tuesday to Saturday.

INSIDE NOVA photo Cutting Horse Classic III
Marine LCPL Kyle Quillman cuts right with his horse to head off a cow and keep in from returning to the herd as Marines from the Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment practice the day before they participate in the Semper Fi Fund's Cutting Horse Classic at the D and M Cattle Company in Nokesville, Va. on Friday, April 13, 2012. Photo by Inside NOVA.

“It’s exciting to see these Ma­rines come and take this chal­lenge,” said Don York, who owns D&M Cattle Company with his wife, Margaret.

While most of the Marines had some experience working with horses, very few had experience cutting horses, in which a horse and rider are judged on their abil­ity to separate a single cow from a herd and keep it away for a short period of time.

“By the time they’ve finished here, they are pretty good horse­men, and they’ve built up a lot of confidence, and they have a lot of fun,” York said. “It’s a big adven­ture for them. It’s a big deal for them.”

Semper Fi Fund Outreach Manager Angie McCrary agreed, and said the competition is “a new way to instill confidence in them [wounded service members].”

The horsemanship program is part of the Semper Fi Fund’s Team Semper Fi, a rehabilitative sports program that is made up of more than 270 injured service members who take part in ath­letic events around the country.

“It’s an opportunity for them to continue to develop in their re­covery, and that’s not just physi­cal and mental recovery, its mind, body and spirit and family,” said Capt. Jill Wolf, public affairs offi­cer for the WWR.

The Semper Fi Fund is a non­profit that provides financial as­sistance and quality of life solu­tions for Marines and sailors, as well as for members of the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard who serve in support of Marine forces, when they become injured in post 9/11 combat or training op­erations, or they face life-threat­ening illness or injury.

The Marines worked on their cutting skills during the week and on Saturday put everything they learned to the test as they partici­pated in the competition itself.

And York said it was folks like Moe Pitts, who made the drive from his home in North Caro­lina just to volunteer at the event, who helped to make it all possible.

“This is my way of paying back to these guys, to the country, to freedom,” he said.

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