Bill Bevins and Shelly Perkins interview a local man whose heart is in the right place: helping our disabled veterans.
For the past seven years, Powhatan-based nonprofit Lonesome Dove Equestrian Center has served the special needs of local disabled veterans. Services are free to the veterans, as the organization believes they have already paid their service to our country.
Clint Arrington is the organization’s founder and president of its board of directors. We talked in the Easy 100.9 studio. Here are excerpts.
BILL BEVINS: WE’RE VERY EXCITED TO HAVE CLINT ARRINGTON THIS MORNING, AND CLINT IS WITH THE LONESOME DOVE EQUESTRIAN CENTER. GOOD TO SEE YOU, COWBOY.
CLINT ARRINGTON: Thank you, sir.
BB: THIS IS A SPECIAL PLACE THAT SHELLY AND I HAVE TALKED ABOUT FOR YEARS. WHY DON’T YOU TELL FOLKS WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE LONESOME DOVE EQUESTRIAN CENTER IS ALL ABOUT.
CA: Lonesome Dove Equestrian center was designed and thought about in 2007, and we made it start happening in 2008. We take veterans from [Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center] and outpatients, and allow them to find a way to regain their courage, confidence, hope and honor through therapeutic riding with horses.
SHELLY PERKINS: NOW THESE ARE VETERANS WHO HAVE BEEN PERMANENTLY DISABLED BECAUSE OF THEIR SERVICE?
CA: Not necessarily all [the] veterans’ [injuries] are combat-related, so we take anywhere from 18 to 96 years old.
BB: YOU BRING THEM OUT THERE, SOME OF THEM IN WHEELCHAIRS – YOU HAVE A SPECIAL APPARATUS THAT LIFTS THEM UP OUT OF THE WHEELCHAIR AND GENTLY SITS THEM IN THE SADDLE. AND THEY EXPERIENCE SOMETHING THAT MOST OF THEM HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED BEFORE. FOR SOMEBODY WHO HAS BEEN IN A TRAUMATIC EVENT OR IS NOT ABLE TO WALK, IT’S PRETTY SCARY, I WOULD IMAGINE.
CA: It is frightening, and what everybody has inside them is fear – and this even accentuates the fear. But this allows the veterans to overcome their fears, and there is nothing they can’t do.
SP: WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION WHEN YOU STARTED IT?
CA: I started it from working with children and one young adult who had multiple sclerosis, and I saw what it did for her. So then we tried to incorporate the therapeutic riding with the veterans and I got lucky: I found a therapist at the hospital who was willing to take a chance and not ask permission. And it’s grown from three riders in 2008 to now we have 1,700-plus veterans on horseback.
SP: ONE THING THAT I THINK IS INTERESTING IS THAT THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS THAT FOLKS CAN GET INVOLVED WITH THIS BEAUTIFUL FACILITY IN POWHATAN.
CA: There are a lot of ways, [such as] serving food. We have a big lunch every time they ride. When they get there at 10 a.m., they ride until 12-12:30 p.m. – and then we have a big social. And that is a big part of what we do, too. It allows them to interact with other veterans and it allows them to see what other people are doing, and they can feel the love, the caring, the understanding.
SP: ARE THERE OPPORTUNITIES TO ACTUALLY WORK WITH THE HORSES AND THE VETS THEMSELVES?
CA: The vets can work with the horses, in that they can brush them, they can groom them, they can lead them, they ride them in flag presentations. They’re on their own – almost. We still have leaders and people on each side, because it’s therapeutic, and they have been able to ride in local horse shows, and they have been invited to go to the world show in Oklahoma, in which [one rider] came in second place two years in a row.
BB: HAVING THESE VOLUNTEERS WATCH THAT AND PICK UP ON THOSE FEELINGS HAS TO BE REWARDING FOR EVERYBODY.
CA: It is very rewarding for everyone in that they can give as much as they want to, and I guarantee you will get twice as much back. You will hear a “thank you” a hundred times from these guys. And they really appreciate it.
BB: WE’VE SEEN YOU OUT AT PLACES LIKE THE DIAMOND AND AT DIFFERENT PLACES DOING PRESENTATIONS WITH THE HORSES. THEY’RE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS – AND EVEN MORE BEAUTIFUL [ARE THE] PEOPLE WHO COME AND VOLUNTEER AND HELP OUT THE LONESOME DOVE EQUESTRIAN CENTER. IT’S NOT DOWNTOWN, IS IT?
CA: We’re out in Powhatan. Different corporations have sent their groups of people out and provided the money to buy what’s necessary to get something built – like 500 feet of fence. All kinds of things can be done.
BB: WE WANT TO GET PEOPLE IN TOUCH WITH YOU TO VOLUNTEER. HOW DO WE DO THAT?
CA: Our email address is the best way to get me. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. [The website: ldequestrian.com.]
SP: I SAW THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER: YOU ACTUALLY ACCEPT USED TROPHIES, SO IF I HAD TROPHIES IN A CLOSET THAT DON’T MEAN ANYTHING TO ME ANYMORE, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH USED TROPHIES?
CA: We take used trophies and then we’ll take the top off. It may have been a golf trophy, it may have been a baseball trophy, karate – and we’ll put a horse top on it and we’ll put a sticker on it of Lonesome Dove, and at the end of every session we have a ceremony where everyone receives a trophy because I feel they’re all winners.
SP: WELL, YOUR ORGANIZATION IS AMAZING, CLINT, AND THANK YOU FOR ALL THE WORK THAT YOU DO WITH OUR VETERANS. YOU CAN VOLUNTEER, YOU CAN DONATE MONEY TO HELP THIS FACILITY RUN – AND YES, EVEN [DONATE] USED TROPHIES.
Bill Bevins and Shelly Perkins, teamed as a Richmond radio fixture since 2001, are morning hosts with Easy 100.9.