News: Wounded Warriors mount up and ride
Story by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The rider brushed his horse as he whispered in to his ear, “Easy Peanut, it’s just you and me out there.” He mounted Peanut and stared blankly ahead. The doors opened and with a nudge of the cowboy’s spurs, Peanut trotted forward into the bright lights of the barn. The crowd of more than 100 cheered, and again the cowboy reminded Peanut, “like I said, Peanut, it’s just you and me out here.”
Wounded warrior Cpl. J. D. Hartley and his horse, Peanut, were one of 11 wounded warriors who competed against each other for the coveted first-place trophy and the bragging rights that come with it at the third Wounded Warrior Cutting Horse Classic at D&M Cattle Co. Ranch in Nolksville, April 14.
Cutting horses originated from cattle ranches when the rancher had to separate cattle that needed vaccination, castrating and sorting from the rest of the herd. Eventually competitions arose between the best riders.
“The environment is just great,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Bord, a wounded warrior competing in the event. “Seeing all the people out here makes me want to step up my game.”
Due to the variety of riding experience the competition was broken into to two divisions: an all-pro division for seasoned riders and a non-pro division for novice riders.
After two rounds of stiff competition, the results where unprecedented. There was a tie for first place in the all-pro division. Sgt. Maj. Joseph VanFonda and Cpl. Franklin Powell were both awarded trophies.
“I love riding. It’s a great feeling coming in first,” Powell said. “I had a great horse that was easy to maneuver.
Taking the non-pro division was Sgt. Matt Smith, followed by a close second Cpl. Mike Nunez.
“It was a good competition that showed a lot of talent,” Smith said. “I owe it all to the trainers. They pushed us hard.”
Prior to the competition, the wounded warriors had spent four days familiarizing themselves with the horses, learning to ride and the basics of cutting.
“It’s been a lot of fun getting to learn how to ride,” Bord said. “I used to ride as a kid and doing this brought back a lot of good memories.”
“This is by far the toughest sport to do in the world,” said Mo Smith, a local trainer known for his expertise in horse handling. “To see how far these guys have come in these past few days is nothing short of amazing. Every one of these guys is a winner for coming out performing the way they have tonight.”