NAMPA, Idaho — The Idaho Cutting Horse Association (ICHA) teamed up with Wishes for Warriors to host a horse cutting clinic at the Idaho Horse Park to give back to veterans in a unique and fun way.
"It really changed our lives being able to bring guys out here, and I know from what we have seen today that they are going to leave here with something way more than just cutting," said Dominic Davila, a veteran and the Wishes For Warriors Recreational Therapy Clinical Director.
ICHA hosted the clinic for veterans from all across the United States to teach them how to control cattle.
"Especially with everything that is going on in the world today, our big mission and focus right now is just getting their minds off of everything," said Bam Marshall, a veteran and the Founder of Wishes For Warriors. "It can be tough. We have a lot of Afghan vets with us and so just something so simple as this, they’re able to have fun, smile, and just relax."
The group started out by getting comfortable on a horse, then moving to flag work, and within a few hours, they were in the arena, cutting cattle on their own.
"Cattle cutting is something I never knew existed and now I'm hooked," Davila said. "I think I'm a pro. I'm sure not, but now I want horses."
Pro or not, veterans got the seal of approval from the professionals.
"We weren’t sure if we were going to get them to work out of the hood, and watching every one of them, even Matt who had never ridden a horse before, he did about three months worth of horse lessons in a couple of hours, and he was cutting up the best of them and doing really good so that was really fun," Mark Michels, a clinic volunteer, said.
To these veterans, the clinic meant a lot more than just learning a new sport or the opportunity to get on a horse.
"It is us meeting and hanging out and just getting to be normal again," Davila said. "For me, that is what I take the most out of it. Just the guys and showing them that there is more life after war and that we are able to continue to fight and continue to help out in ways we never thought of."
It also ended up being a special reunion for two of the veterans.
"We have two guys who served together and haven’t seen each other in ten years so to be able to bring them from Afghanistan to Idaho to come ride horses is absolutely amazing,” Davila said.
This training camp was a preview of their fundraising event on September 4 where the veterans will compete at cutting to raise money for Wishes For Warriors that make events like this one possible.