The Backstory About Horse Riding, a Local Veteran and J.L. Mercer & Sons BootsOpinion
SAN ANGELO, TX — Random acts of kindness are often the source of real inspiration and a symbol of hope. At Sonrisas Trails Therapeutic Riding, we are so fortunate to witness such selfless acts on a daily basis. It is this level of giving and faith that keeps us humble and inspired to provide the best care that our riders deserve.
Therapeutic horse riding contributes to the cognitive, physical, emotional and social well being of individuals with special needs. Throughout the world, there are thousands of individuals with special needs who experience the rewarding benefits of horseback riding where experiencing the motion of a horse can be very therapeutic. Because horseback riding rhythmically moves the rider's body in a manner similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength.
Sonrisas Riding provides this therapy in the west central Texas region and is organized as a non-profit organization. At our facilities at 5185 S. Bryant Ave., we have assisted thousands of patients since our founding in 1983.
Every once and a while, an inspiring story arises because of our work here, where we get to witness a true paradigm shift in the lives of those we serve.
That happened in September 2016 when Sonrisas Trails embarked on a long-awaited Veteran’s Riding Program. Scotty Morris, a Vietnam veteran was one of our first riders. Scotty was paired with a red roan gelding named Rusty. A lifelong friendship was forged. Through the random acts of kindness of a horse, Scotty embarked on a journey of healing and grace that would unknowingly pave the way for extraordinary generosity and support.
While planning for Sonrisas Trails’ annual Boots, Buckles and Pearls event presented by Sonora Bank in April, Kyle Brock, owner of J.L. Mercer & Sons Boots was inspired by Sonrisas Trails new Veteran’s Riding Program. It was Kyle’s idea for him to donate an additional pair of custom made boots to auction off at the event and give them to a military veteran. At that point we had not chosen the veteran recipient nor had Kyle and Scotty ever met.
The night of the Sonora Bank’s Boots, Buckles and Pearls event, the Spur Arena was packed with over 1,200 patrons and volunteers. So many special things occurred that evening. No one was prepared for the incredible amount of love and support that was about to be demonstrated to a total stranger.
We saved the veteran boots as the last item in the live auction. Scotty’s name was not revealed and only the Sonrisas Trails staff and Scotty’s family knew of his selection. Even Scotty was not aware. Brandon K. Moore, a local CPA and first time Sonrisas Trails supporter, purchased the boots in a highly charged auction. Brandon subsequently doubled his winning bid. To see and hear 1,200 people give a standing ovation to this occasion was a very powerful thing to experience. We all knew at that moment that this was not just an auction with a great ending. We were witnessing the enlightenment of a long and purposeful journey. And yet with another random act of kindness from a new donor, we all became connected.
What started with a Vietnam vet participating in an inaugural therapeutic riding program with no expectations, resulted in so many hearts coming together in ways none of us ever imagined. Three men and one horse set off a ripple effect of real and positive change. It is the kind of change that inspires others to do the same. We are not alone in this world. We are all connected and we can use that connection for the betterment of all of our lives. This is at the very heart of Sonrisas Trails Therapeutic Riding: improving lives one ride at a time.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead