Sixteen participants rode horses and mules May 15 with Hauer Ranch wranglers near Fisher Towers, enjoying lunch and a time to network with one another about their life experiences and challenges. Event organizer Dr. Karl Hoopes, DVM, arranges the rides throughout the state as a way to bring military veterans together, and to fulfill USU’s mission of being a land-grant college that serves the entire state.
Hoopes, equine extension specialist at USU, and other higher-education officials rode with the veterans, some of whom are now college students, and discussed the value of the Ride Utah program. Sheldon W. Holgreen, director of the Veteran Success Center at Utah Valley University, said, “We truly enjoyed it and found it to be very emotionally soothing. This experience has created a lasting impression not soon to be forgotten.”
On behalf of UVU, as a token of his appreciation, he gave John Hauer a “challenge coin.” Challenge coins surfaced during World War I when the practice of carrying a coin designed especially for a unit was popular with Army Special Forces. “Carrying the coin at all times and presenting it when ‘challenged’ to prove affiliation with that unit resulted in a number of consequences for those who could not produce a coin,” explained Holgreen. “The most popular required the coinless soldier to buy a drink. That practice continues to this day,” he said. “We at the UVU Veterans Success Center hope that our paths cross again and that maybe we will be caught unprepared and owe you all a drink!”
Participant Stephanie Richards, who is now a student at UVU, said she “had an amazing time, being able to relax my mind and gain some positive perspective about my daily life. During the tour I completely forgot about the time and was able to enjoy the beautiful view of the canyons and being on the horse.”
Ride Utah plans to return to Moab next spring.