Ken McCracken, one of the Heroes Astride veterans, was just twenty-three when he arrived home from the Vietnam War in 1969. He had experienced the harsh realities of combat and witnessed disturbing situations. Like many of our returning veterans, Ken found the transition to civilian life difficult. When he enrolled in college classes one of his teachers asked the students to sit in alphabetical order. Ken wasn’t able to comply because he didn’t feel comfortable anywhere but with his back against the wall. In combat zones a person learns safety is hyper-vigilance with your back protected. Ken laments that there weren’t any programs like UCP Heroes Astride back then to help him. “A horse isn’t a threat,” he said, “it accepts you for who you are – it meets you on neutral ground.” Ken is now riding confidently, completing drill maneuvers with his horse and other veterans, focused and enthusiastic.
Ken is now one of the volunteers at UCP Saddle Pals – helping children, teens and adults with developmental disabilities learn how to ride.