Morning Dove revives veterans’ program with horses

Posted on Jan 02 2020 in Boone REMC
Photo of patient at Morning Dove Riding Center

The Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding Center recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and with it comes the revitalization of a program near to Boone REMC’s heart. In February, the facility will reintroduce Heroes on Board, which partners with the Vet Center of Indianapolis to offer equine-assisted activities and therapies to veterans with physical and/or emotional challenges.

According to Bailee Reynolds, development director, Morning Dove’s Heroes on Board program incorporates unmounted equine activities for veterans of all wars and veterans who served during times of peace.

“The program is designed to address special needs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as other emotional challenges, along with the physical disabilities faced by many of our veterans,” Reynolds said. 

In 2013, the Operation Round Up board for Boone REMC gave a $5,000 grant for the original veteran program through the VA Hospital. Patti Henry, assistant development director, said that the relationships that were formed out of the first program were far-reaching and long-lasting. 

“One veteran came back just to take care of the horse,” Henry said. “And her stall was immaculate. She got all kinds of treats. He came back here for her. We didn’t create that. This was just a place for him to feel that connection.”

According to Reynolds, it is the horses that are the “saints.” Most are on their second to third career by the time they come to Morning Dove. Currently, there are 14 horses in use, averaging 18 years in age. 

Aside from the Heroes on Board program, the facility also provides therapy services to a wide range of child, adolescent and adult participants with physical, cognitive, behavioral and/or emotional disabilities. In addition, Lead Change is a program in conjunction with Wayne Township schools that helps students with emotional challenges. In total, the program works with approximately 120 students/week. 

“The Heroes on Board would be very similar to the Lead Changes program,” Reynolds said. “The curriculum focuses on connection, body language, and group dynamics–all-important in day-to-day interactions.”

The group hopes to involve veteran families. Currently, 9 veterans have signed up, but the program is taking new referrals through the Vet Center of Indianapolis. 

In total, Boone REMC’s Operation Round Up has given Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding Center $16,000 in grants since 2013.


Morning Dove Looking for Horses!

Morning Dove is looking for a few special horses to join the team! The horses should be 14.3-15.2h and be sturdy, be sound at walk/trot/canter, and be friendly. 

Generally, teenage horses are the most successful–old enough to know things but young enough to still want to learn a few new things.

Morning Dove horses are typically care-leased from owners who want to stay in their horse’s lives and have a place for them to retire when the time comes.