Tony Vagneur: Horseplay encouraged, so let’s help a local nonprofit to continue “The Dance” | AspenTimes.com
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Tony Vagneur: Horseplay encouraged, so let’s help a local nonprofit to continue “The Dance”

Tony Vangeur
Saddle Sore

They’re known as “The Healers,” a unique group who, with great stoicism, give meaning and hope to a deserving segment of our valley population. They generally don’t verbalize, they never roll their eyes, and they love a nuzzle or giving one back. Who are they? They are giants in the lives of those who find comfort and adventure with these gentle creatures.

They are the bedrock of the WindWalkers stable on Missouri Heights, 18 therapy horses that have been given second or third lives in this important role. They are the ones that provide “the dance” to children and adults who normally cannot or will not dance. See the smiles, the joy, of those who communicate with these equines, those who trust these horses to be completely honest, forthcoming and nonjudgmental in their communications.

According to their website, “WindWalkers is an equine assisted learning and therapy center with a family-centered approach. Our mission is to provide a variety of equine assisted therapies to aid in the development and growth of those with challenges, be they physical, neurological, emotional, behavioral or psychological.”



It’s a bond that many of us know, the thrill of having horses in our lives, and it gives us a window into how important the relationships are that can be nurtured at WindWalkers. Who has been one of your best friends, the one to whom you can tell any and every thing?

To borrow from Anton Chekhov, under the current pandemic, our world seems reasonably ordered even with the restrictions placed on so many of our activities. We worry about the day we can go maskless, back to normal. But there are others, mostly unseen and flying under the radar, those whose lives are further restricted, either by physical or mental impairments and limitations.



The children whose body movements are restricted, adults with MS or Parkinson, or those big and small with social and emotional disorders. They wonder and look forward to the day they can spend more precious time with their favorite horse. Ah, the secret communications many of those animals must carry, stories that can’t be told to anyone other than a totally trusted friend.

“The Dance,” mentioned above, is the communication between the person and the horse. One doesn’t have to ride a horse to make a connection — solely petting the animal, or just inhaling the unique smell of the equine world is wonderful. But if you ride, it truly becomes a dance, for the stride and movement of a horse walking is remarkably similar to that of a person walking. Imagine what a thrill that is to someone whose legs can’t carry them naturally.

To these folks, children and adults, touching, feeling, riding their favorite horse is like a fresh-powder day to the rest of us, light fluffy snow, crystals gleaming in blue-sky sunlight. How incredibly satisfying it is to see the smiles and hear the laughter of those whose lives are expanded at WindWalkers.

As usual, I’m late to the game, but here’s the deal. WindWalkers is having a special fundraiser going on — “For the Love of Horses” — this month. For every $100 (or more) contributed, it will be matched up to $15,000 until Feb. 28. OK, I know it’s hard to meet that deadline with such short-sighted advance warning on my part, but send them an email to gabrielle@windwalkerstrc.org or give them a call at 970.963.2909 with your intentions. It’ll all work out. WindWalkers is a 501(c)(3) entity.

It takes about $100 a month to hay and grain one of these wonderful “healers.” That’s all those gentle equines ask in return for all they do. But, by helping one horse, you help many people with difficult challenges.

The old saying, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person” couldn’t be more true, especially in these trying times. The pandemic has made it difficult for many nonprofits. Let’s help WindWalkers continue its invaluable contribution to those in the valley whose lives are incredibly enriched by their association with non-verbal, nonjudgmental equine companions.

It’s said that if you look into the eye of a horse, you can see eternity, or maybe your soul. Let them look back and see your generosity.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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