SHOSHONE — What started as a long-term dream is about to become a reality for Hiatus Ranch and its owner, Joshua Burnside. Burnside is a combat veteran of two tours in Iraq. After returning from overseas, Josh had difficulty readjusting to society until he began learning about horsemanship in 2015.
Since then, Josh has been involved in several equestrian programs and working with animals. Josh's passion grew over time and has shifted his focus to helping fellow veterans going through similar circumstances.
Throughout this past year, Josh has been working to renovate his land and acquire enough animals to host his program, and allow veterans to reset and gain their bearings.
This upcoming weekend will mark the start of the ranch's inaugural program and he will be hosting three veterans to take advantage of this opportunity.
“It’s a huge accomplishment, and I wasn’t expecting it this soon, everything, hard work, and dedication,” said Burnside.
The hope is that just as much as animals helped Josh, it could help fellow veterans overcome troubles they could be facing.
“To see him change from the person that he was, and what he was going through, the animals have helped him
tremendously," said Kathy Norris, Josh's mother. "It turned his life around. Now he’s just wanting to reach out to other veterans and trying to give back to them.”
The main focus of the program will be to work with all sorts of animals on the ranch, especially horses.
“We have the equine program," said Burnside. "So, they're going to start off with the basics, and then they’ll learn as advanced as they want to learn, and they can just stick to that.”
Although veterans in attendance will have their daily responsibilities of caring for the animals, there are plenty of recreational activities planned for the participants.
“Some fishing, some ATVing up in the mountains up North," said Burnside. "The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department has teamed up with us and they’re going to do a half a day of advanced shooting and safety course. So, we’ve got all kinds of stuff planned for them.”
While this is Josh's dream, he has plenty of help along the way and has had a team of volunteers helping out across the ranch where it's been needed.
One of these volunteers is Britnee Horting and her family, who have not only enjoyed working on the ranch but greatly appreciate the chance to help Josh and provide this opportunity to veterans.
“The opportunity to work hard, learn new things, and be around the animals," said Horting. "My brother served in the military. So, it’s kind of a cause that’s important to us as a family and so just being able to be involved in that and in some little way serve them.”
One of the other volunteers on the ranch is also a veteran and will be one of the three vets participating in this first run of the ranch's program.
“I’m looking forward to riding a horse, I haven’t done that since I was a very small child," said Kanisha Morgan. "What else? He has so many things planned, I’m just looking forward to everything.”
Even though space is limited for this program, the goal is to make a real connection with the veterans in attendance, and the Hiatus Ranch team values quality service or the number of people they have on-site.
“I’ve been to numerous programs, and once you get over five people, someone gets lost in the mix, and they don’t speak up," said Burnside. "So, they don’t end up getting what they could out of the program.”
Since this is the first run of the program, it will last only two weeks rather than 30 days, which is the plan for the remaining sessions. There is still also work to be done, and the ranch is in need of donations as well as more volunteers.
If you'd like to find out more about the program, donate, or volunteer, you can head to the Hiatus Ranch website.