Horses healing hearts: Caravan makes stop in Clark County
Jeannette and Richard McGrath of Wyoming were surrounded by traffic as they lead their horse and dog caravan down West Lexington Avenue Thursday. The two have been riding cross country since March 2010, starting near San Francisco, to raise money and awareness for a facility to heal emotionally broken people, Hearts Up Ranch. During their journey, they acquired their dog, Bella, in Kansas, and someone gave them their fifth horse just before they took on the Rockies in Colorado. (James Mannemail@example.com / September 24, 2011)
Richard and Jeannette McGrath of Wyoming who recently celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary, made an overnight stop Wednesday in Clark County with their caravan of five horses and a dog. They are on a coast-to-coast horseback journey that started near San Francisco in March 2010, and will end in Virginia, they hope by this Thanksgiving.
The couple are riding to raise awareness and funds to open and fund Hearts Up Ranch, a facility that will use outdoor adventure and nature, along with prayer, to help emotionally broken people heal.
The two met in college while both studying horses and working on a ranch, and they got married after. They have shared experiences working as program leaders at guest ranches, working on horse farms and helping at a therapeutic riding facility.
“We’ve really just seen how having people out in nature, just out away from the stresses and distractions of everyday life, and how people ... just open up so much easier than (in) an office setting,” Jeannette said.
Wednesday afternoon, the two had just stopped for the night at Shopper’s Market, where the owners arranged for the horses to stay. They were taking off the horses’ saddles and wiping them down, preparing them for some rest. Their dog, Bella, who has followed them from Kansas, was curled up in a ball asleep.
The couple spent three years preparing for the journey — founding the charity, creating a board, raising enough money to fund the trip themselves, dehydrating enough food and training their horses. Four are ridden each day, while the other takes the day off. Jeannette rides one in front, three follow in a line behind her, and Richard brings up the rear.
Throughout their journey to Clark County, they have ridden through all seasons including summer through a desert, carrying just one clothing bag each on their saddles and surviving surprising situations.
“Me and two horses fell off a cliff in the beginning of the trip,” Richard said. “Making it through the desert where there’s no water trying to find it ... sandstorms, blizzards, hail, rain. Basically if it’s an environmental hazard, we’ve encountered it, except hurricanes and volcanoes.”
Jeannette said on average, each state has taken about two months to get through, except for Kentucky because they took a long break near Elizabethtown to get their horses treated. They have used different strategies to stay safe on the roadway, like listening for engines and wearing bright clothes so people see the caravan.
“But I mean, really and truly, we pray a lot and God has taken really good care of us. He has really, really protected us the whole way across the country,” Jeannette said. “There’s been many times where we probably could’ve been killed and we were spared by very close calls.”¿
They said the journey, although difficult at first, has been one of the best things for their marriage.
“We have definitely grown together a tremendous amount. ... We’ve found a lot more mercy toward each other ... or grace, that’s the right word. Just being more patient and more understanding of each other. We’re around each other 24-seven,” Jeannette said.
The help from Shopper’s Market was not the first time they have relied on the kindness of strangers, and Richard said throughout their journey, they have seen “good in America that most people think doesn’t exist anymore.”
The couple recalled a town in Nevada where their presence brought others together.
“We were in one community that just kind of banded together to help us out, and they said ‘thank you’ because they didn’t know anybody in their community,” Richard said. “Just because they came together to just help us for a week or so. ... When given a chance, I’d say most people are good.”¿
So far, they have raised $20,000 for Hearts Up Ranch, but their goal is $2 million. They said they’re still optimistic and joked that they just need the “right philanthropist” to hear about their cause.
So far, people in Kentucky have donated a little more than $3,000. The couple hoped to complete 11 more miles in Kentucky by the end of Thursday.
For more information on Hearts Up Ranch, or to track the couple’s trip progress, visit www.heartsupranch.com.
Contact Katie Perkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, @TheSunKatie.