By Becky Streeter
Trinity Equestrian Center (TEC) has had a strong relationship with veterans since it was founded in 2002. Toni Mattson, director of programs and part owner of TEC, grew up surrounded by veterans. She learned early in life of the signs and widespread effects of PSTD, and she developed a passion for helping veterans. Along with her husband and sister, also part owners, Trinity was able to launch its Veteran Wellness Program in 2009. This combined their love of horses and respect for veterans into an all-encompassing program.
Mattson says, “We chose horse-based work because it was a wonderful opportunity to blend our passion for horses and our great desire to help people. We’ve always had a soft spot for people who struggle physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It was something that was passed on from our parents: ‘If you have the means and ability to help others, then help you shall.’ Our version of Dad’s wisdom is: ‘We use the blessings we’ve received to become blessings to others.’ The grand pay-it-forward.”
TEC recognizes that vets don’t necessarily want to come and talk about their feelings, so they focus instead on the relationship between the horse and the veteran. Mattson says horses don’t speak, but they are great communicators. Working with horses and learning to understand horse behavior helps vets learn about themselves.
Since its inception in 2009, the veterans’ program has only grown larger and more successful. Mattson, with TEC teammates, now travels the US to train other equine centers to foster similar results to what TEC has experienced locally. This year, TEC is adding several new programs including Grow Boldly for Vets, a session for active-duty women and military wives, and a High-Five Fridays, a session for the kids of vets and those on active duty.
One of the highlights each year is the Horsepower for Veterans fundraising event. “It’s a great day!” says Mattson. “Registration and silent auction opens at 9 AM. We have staff and Veterans leading their favorite furry friend around and have attendees meet and greet them. We have been blessed for years by the Cleghorn Lions Club, headed up by Andy Lund, who prepares our scrumptious grilled chicken and David Schneider from Randy’s Restaurant who oversees the meal. The Indian Motorcycle Club is our road guard team that keeps us all safe on the route, and nearly 40 Trinity staff & volunteers fill in all the gaps to create a fun, safe and successful fundraiser. We could never, ever do what we do without our incredible volunteers. They are our heart and soul.”
June 22 marks the ninth year of this event and the cost is only $25/person or $35/couple. A silent auction of nearly 80 items is available for spectators to peruse while they wait for the racers to return. TEC will also hold a raffle with $1,250 in Scheels’ gift cards and $350 in cash giveaways. All proceeds from ticket sales, auction and raffle go to fund the work with veterans and their families.
“We do what we do because we are able to make a difference in the lives of those who come to us for help,” Mattson says. “We make space and time for those that don’t feel safe or comfortable in other venues. We stretch ourselves to grow and learn to do the good we do even better. It’s an incredible blessing to be in this position.”
For more information about veteran programs offered by TEC or about the Horsepower for Veterans event, go to their website at www.trinity-ec.com.