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Thank You, AQHA

AQHA member Merrill E. Kidder III, a retired U.S. Army NCO, is thankful for the American Quarter Horses that have healed him.

By MSgt. Ret. Merrill E. Kidder III
The American Quarter Horse Journal
January 6, 2014

Be AQHA Proud

"I have come to the belief that the American Quarter Horse is the finest working horse of all time, and I applaud the AQHA as an organization and all the individuals who work in it for their role in preserving and promoting this great breed of horse," writes MSgt. Ret. Merrill E. Kidder III. (Journal photo)

Editor's Note: The following is a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in the Mailbox section of the December 2013 American Quarter Horse Journal. To submit a letter to the editor, write to aqhajrnl@aqha.org.

I would like to express my deep thanks and appreciation to all the staff of the American Quarter Horse Association. You have played a huge part in helping me fulfill my lifelong dream of raising and training true ranch-quality, working American Quarter Horses. It has taken me over a year to get the paperwork completed to register my brand and business with the state and federal governments, to become a life member in the AQHA and to register my first set of horses with you.

Given a choice, I would choose to deal with the professionals at the AQHA over the state and federal employees every time. I cannot express my gratitude and admiration to everyone at AQHA that I have dealt with. They have all, to the person, been so kind and helpful through my many phone calls and questions. Every person that has answered the phone has been kind, professional, knowledgeable and honest. In the rare instance that they did not know the answer to my question, I received a prompt return call with the information that I needed.

I was raised on the back of a horse, and I owe my ability to walk and function on a daily basis to a horse. I am a retired NCO in the U.S. Army; I am a career soldier who was gravely injured in an IED explosion. I was left with several broken bones, many lacerations and a traumatic brain injury. Bones and tissue heal after a few surgeries, but the TBI left me with a loss of hearing, eyesight, motor control, balance and sensation in my left side.

After more than a year of surgeries and therapy, my doctors informed me the best outcome I could hope for would be to move around with a walker for short distances and a wheelchair for longer journeys. I was devastated by their prognosis; shortly after this, my case manager enrolled me in hippotherapy three times a week. Something about the movement and connection with the horse in therapy started to improve my physical condition. The therapy was mentally difficult and physically painful, but two years after I started, I was cleared by my doctor to live on my own, something that he said I would never be able to accomplish.

I still deal with my injuries and new limitations daily, but that horse and my physical therapists taught me how to walk and live again. The silver lining of this turbulent cloud is I now get to spend my days on my own ranch, surrounded by a sampling of the greatest horses on earth, the American Quarter Horse, and helping other wounded soldiers and local 4-H members who want to be around or get on a horse.

As I said, I was raised on horseback, I have had the great honor of traveling the world over and I have been able to work horses everywhere I have been. I have been able to work all manner of horses in an endless variety of regions, terrain and weather, doing work as varied as military spur and parade rides to catching wild cattle in the jungle hills of the Hawaiian Islands. I have come to the belief that the American Quarter Horse is the finest working horse of all time, and I applaud the AQHA as an organization and all the individuals who work in it for their role in preserving and promoting this great breed of horse.

Chance O'Neal, full-time trainer for Four Sixes Ranch, shows you how he prepares a horse to learn a lead change in the January American Quarter Horse Journal.