Horses on Powhatan farm prove therapeutic for veterans

POWHATAN, Va. -- Clint Arrington considers his seven acres in Powhatan a slice of heaven, one that he shares with veterans for their serenity.

“We’re country. We’re not part of the city,” says Clint. “I grew up here since I was three years old.”

His home and horse farm was too pristine to keep to himself.

Three times a month a small army descends upon Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

Clint's guests are disabled veterans from McGuire Hospital in Richmond.

Clint established a non-profit eight years ago as a way to pay tribute to those in uniform.

“These guys write a check payable with their lives for our freedom,” says Clint.

The four-legged therapy sessions soothe the pain associated with everything from war wounds to PTSD.

“I see it every time the veterans come here,” says Clint. “Some of these guys will be totally shivering with fear. After five minutes there is no fear.”

Since 2008, more than 2,160 veterans have bonded with Clint’s horses Joe Joe, Sugar and Buttons.

“I make them feel accepted,” says Clint. “That is a big part of our program is making them feel welcome.”

Clint Arrington Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center

Clint Arrington Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center

Captain Shanks is no stranger at Lonesome Dove.

The Airman from New York used to fly F-22 Raptors at Mach 1.

“This is probably my sixth time I’ve been here,” says Capt. Shanks. “I enjoy the people. This place is awesome.”

On Father’s Day last year, 26-year-old Shanks was riding his motorcycle near Tyndall AFB when a pick-up truck driver ran a red light in Florida and struck him.

His recovery has been trying. Shanks moves a lot slower these days, but he could not think of any other place he’d rather be besides the cockpit.

Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

“For recovery, that is my number one goal. I want the recovery close to be what I used to be,” says Shanks said.

Volunteer Kate McCullough sees the progress veterans make each week.

“Oh, it’s amazing. Any kind of bonding is really kind of therapeutic at any age,” says Kate. “Just to get out once a week or once a month makes a huge impact.”

Arrington doesn’t draw a paycheck for his good deeds. His salary comes in the form of smiles.

Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center.

“That means more to me when they say ‘thank you,’ a 100 times more than any dollar amount you can put on it,” he says.

Lonesome Dove is a place far from the battlefield, a place where veterans find serenity in the saddle.

If you would like to find out more information about Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center, click here.

If you would like to nominate someone for my “Heroes Among Us” segment email Reporter Greg McQuade.