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Meet Quinn Sanders: 2014 NSBA Heroes on Horses Ranch Horse Pleasure World Champion

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SUCCEED is proud to have been the title sponsor of the special Heroes on Horses event at the National Snaffle Bit Association World Championship Show again this year. The NSBA offers two Heroes on Horses classes during the World Championship Show. Both are open to veterans with disabilities.Heroes on Horses classes have been part of the NSBA Worlds since 2011.

Prior to 2011, Quinn Sanders, a U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, hadn’t been on a horse since he was six years old — and that was only for a quick lead-line ride up and down the block. But last month, Quinn took the world championship title in the Heroes on Horses Ranch Horse Pleasure class at the National Snaffle Bit Association World Championship, on his horse Black Magic. It was his first time ever showing at the NSBA World Championship Show.

Quinn credits his success directly to Black Magic, saying, “it was mostly all Magic, not me — I don’t really know a lot about arena riding” — but since the class was judged on 50 percent rider and 50 percent horse, we did a little digging to find out where that other 50 percent came from. We discovered that the secret to Quinn’s success could be traced back to Melanie Mincey and the Broken Wheel Ranch Project, in Bonham, Texas.

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Quinn was in a program at the VA hospital in Dallas, Texas, for veterans recovering from stress, anxiety and PTSD. It was there that Quinn met Melanie, a nurse at the hospital.  When Quinn told Melanie about his love of horses, she invited him to visit Broken Wheel Ranch, where she and her husband, James, run a therapeutic riding ranch for veterans. With the slogan, “Helping Veterans Recover, One Ride at a Time,” Broken Wheel serves around 20 veterans on a regular basis. The program is completely free to vets and their family members.

“We’ve got about 300 acres to ride on, so we mostly ride on the trail,” Quinn says. “But when it came time for the show, I started riding Magic in the arena, where I could get the feel of him, and he could get the feel of me.”

Quinn, who lives about 80 miles from Broken Wheel, comes to ride at least once a week, and usually tries to bring several other veterans from his program at the VA with him to ride. He can speak first-hand about the value of therapeutic riding to his quality of life, and wants nothing more than to share that with other veterans.

“If you’ve got any type of a mental condition or depression or PTSD, horses are fantastic,” he says. “Riding relieves all of your stress and anxiety and it’s really peaceful — like sanctuary on the back of your horse when you’re riding down through the trees and by the creek.”
And from learning the basics from Melanie and her team, Quinn has also progressed to learning to be a trainer, thanks to several seminars he’s attended.

“I’m mostly learning how to build a partnership with a horses by building up trust,” he says. “I try to do that with our veterans now too — try to help them experience what I’ve experienced with horses. It’s definitely a lifetime thing for me. I don’t like to say never, but I’ll never give up horses!”

Eight other veterans from Broken Wheel also participated in the Heroes on Horses classes — several of whom had competed the year before.
“I felt really grateful for the chance to compete in the Heroes on Horses class,” Quinn says. “It really makes us veterans feel appreciated, and that we’re not going unnoticed. For the NSBA to create that class in 2011, they really showed us they cared — and we’re grateful for that.”
Congratulations to Quinn and Black Magic, world champions of this year’s Heroes on Horses Ranch Horse Pleasure class!

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