For area veteran Robert "Bob" Walling, a moving tribute to veterans at the Healing Horses' 14th annual Fun Show in Linn sparked an idea -- an entire 1,000-pound idea.
Crowds gathered in September for the student demonstration event that included food, a raffle and a silent auction, where all proceeds benefited the therapeutic riding program. Walling originally set out to attend the Fun Show to watch his granddaughter ride her horse, but he was quickly inspired by the touching tribute the group of young riders performed to thank the veterans.
He recalled the moment he first had tears well in his eyes as the riders trotted their horses before the crowd in a large circle, one carried an American flag while others followed suit with several other flags.
"When they passed me, it made my eyes swell, seeing the American flag," Walling said.
Following the opening loop around the field, the demonstration culminated when the riders and horses gracefully lined up, placed the American flag front and center, and began the National Anthem to honor the veterans.
Walling was so moved by this emotional homage, he wanted to help do something special to give back to the owner of Healing Horses, Amy DeCramer.
"Why can't we do something for someone who does so much for veterans?" Walling asked himself.
So with help from the VFW in Linn, Walling helped organize a 1,000-pound donation of horse feed to Healing Horses.
The donation was possible thanks to a generous discount from SFG Backes Feed Inc. (Osage Feed and Supply). The veterans were also quick to thank Purina Sales Specialist Christina Given for her additional donation of 1,000 pounds of feed, available to Healing Horses upon request.
Walling also recently purchased additional flags for next year's Fun Show, and he delivered the new flags along with the feed to Healing Horses last week.
There was no shortness in generosity and merriment between the veterans and the owners of Healing Horses as they shared stories and helped unload the feed on the cold Thursday afternoon.
The veterans weren't the only ones eager to thank and help.
"I just wanted to recognize them [the veterans] because they served their country in their time but they're still serving their community, and I think that's amazing that this group of gentlemen does that," DeCramer said.
Healing Horses Therapeutic Program is home to 29 horses and gives lessons to 112 clients on a weekly basis.
"We offer therapeutic riding lessons to kids with disabilities, adults with disabilities, foster kids, veterans, and stroke survivors. We also offer able-bodied lessons," DeCramer said.
The VFW veterans were drawn to DeCramer's charitable Horses for Heroes Program, Waller said, which helps veterans and active duty military cope with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and/or physical disabilities, noting how the use of the trained horses can be calming and therapeutic like that of a service dog. This alternative rehabilitation program is free for all veterans.
For more information about Healing Horses Therapeutic Programs, as well as ways to help, visit healinghorsesmo.com to learn more.