Deep Dive Series With The Veterans Ranch

For this week’s Deep Dive Series, we are interviewing an inspiring Clapper creator: The Veterans Ranch

The Veterans Ranch is dedicated to help families of veterans through equestrian therapy. We interviewed JR Smith, the Vicepresident and Co-founder of Veterans Ranch, who manages their social media accounts. He taught us so much about the power of healing through horses and their role in helping veterans recover from anxiety and trauma. We got an inside look in what Veterans Ranch is doing to help their community of veterans and reduce the veteran suicide rate in the United States.

Keep reading this Deep Dive Series to find out more about this creator’s amazing story. Make sure to tune in every Thursday at 5pm CT on our @Clappertalks account, to listen to the bonus questions that will only be available on our live radio show: Clapper Talks.

Deep Dive into this amazing creator’s life!

For anyone who doesn’t know about Veterans Ranch, tell us a little bit about the organization. 

It started with two proud patriots, which are me and my wife. I was smart to make my wife president. When I say patriots, that is a term from veterans. Patriots are th 99% that support the 1% that wear the uniform. That uniform is my dad, he was a two-tour Vietnam veteran of the United States Navy. Back in 2017, we started this with the sole purpose of helping veterans and first responders with equine therapy. Twenty percent of veterans go into the first responders’ field. Basically, we get you to work on a rhythmic motion and build a bond of trust with a horse.

What made you want to create and be part of the Veteran’s Ranch? 

My wife and I have always been into horses, we wanted our slice of Americana with some horses. My dad always taught me to have a legal pad by the bed in case I get an idea in the middle of the night. October 2017, I woke up at 3 am and scribbled the word “ranch” and lay back down. The next day I had no idea what that meant so I gave it a lot of thought and prayer. We went to have lunch at a Chili’s and 10 napkins later, the idea for Veterans Ranch was born. Also, we were tired of seeing how veterans were treated by our government and we just knew something on a day-to-day basis should be done.

Tell us about Healing Through Horses, how does Horse therapy can help Veterans? 

In order for horse therapy to work, you have to work. You have to give yourself to that horse. You need to stop thinking about thinking and submit yourself to that horse. A horse can set his heart rate to your heart rate. They feel everything you feel and project it back to you. If it’s fear and timidness, they feel it. The intuitiveness of that animal can do amazing things for veterans. We do something called liberty training. In this training, we put you into this round pen with a horse you’ve never met, no saddles no equipment. You have to work yourself into the center of the arena and try to get the horse to come to you. If you are anxious that horse is not going to come to you. You need to build that bond of trust.

Is there a process to picking the horses for this kind of therapy? Do they need any special training or requirement to help these veterans? 

There are certain breeds that are more gentle than others. I’m originally from Missouri, and in Missouri, there is a special breed called the Missouri Foxtrot. It’s a mix of two or three breeds. Very calm. You don’t want a skittish or a performance horse. They are trained for a very specific job. You can grab retired racehorses and retrain them on what it feels like to be a horse again and you can have a great horse for equine therapy. Retired police horses are good because they are already trained to not overreact to large crowds or loud sounds. Also, you need to know everything about that horse before you ever put him with veterans, so everyone stays safe.  

So, When did you join Clapper? What made you create the VR account on Clapper?

We created it around late 2019. I was just coming back from the Dallas-Fort Worth area because they moved the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to Texas. We went there and had a booth. A couple people asked me if I was on Clapper. I said, no, should I be? So, I came home and I checked it out. It seemed like a more grown-up version of your competitor. I decided to give it a shot. Before you know it, we have 2700 people and making a lot of connections. We want to spread our message. Veterans’ suicide rate has gone from 22 veterans a day to 35 a day. That’s why we started this account, to reach as many veterans as we can to get that number down to zero.

What do you enjoy most about Clapper? What can the audience expect from your profile?

We absolutely love the app. The ease of use of just uploading the content. What you can expect from our account is what I am talking about here today, no bs and hitting you with hard-hitting information. You always going to get the brutal honesty that people and veterans deserve from us. The people that are on this app, I love them to death, the comments we get are insightful and it’s been a great thing.

In what ways can people help out Veterans in their area? 

We are working on a more structured educational series of videos that will show you different parts of a horse, a saddle, and different things you can do with veterans. The one thing I can ask everyone is not just to thank a veteran for their service, but to buy them a cup of coffee, or buy their lunch. Don’t just thank them, do something about it.

You can donate to Veteran’s Ranch through their website or reach out to an organization member to volunteer your services.

For our latest deep-dive interview with @HopeForTheWarriors, read here.

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