January 2017 Heroes of the Month:
Mike Beck and The Joyful Horse Project

I first met Mike Beck at the National Cowboy Poetry festival in Elko, Nevada, where he is revered as a great cowboy songwriter and singer. In the course of talking with him, I learned about his devotion to our veterans and his commitment to a unique program bringing veterans and their families together with a horse rehabilitation program in the Hill Country near Austin, Texas:  The Joyful Horse Project.

Mike Beck - horseman and musicianMike grew up in Monterey, California. At the age of 13, he went to the Monterey Pop Festival and became fascinated by music. Since then he has been composing and performing a wide array of folk, rock and Americana music. The Western Horseman magazine picked two of Mike's songs for its "13 Best Cowboy Songs." The legendary Ramblin Jack Elliot has said that Mike's acoustic guitar playing is the best this side of Steven Stills. Mike has released 13 albums to date. He performs in the United States and Europe both as a solo act and with his band, "The Bohemian Saints."

Mike has also worked as a full-time cowboy in California, Nevada, and Montana, and has spent time under the tutelage of legendary cowboys Bill and Tom Dorrance. He now often teaches horsemanship classes as part of his music tours.

In recent years, Mike has become a big supporter of the Joyful Horse Project. He serves informally as both its inspiration and its ambassador. The focal point of The Joyful Horse Project is Restoration Ranch, a 27-acre horse ranch. The program brings together traumatized veterans with horses being rehabilitated from abuse and neglect. Veterans' families are also included in the program.

The program follows the "one horse, one man" approach that Mike believes in. Working together, the veterans and the horses experience extraordinary, healing bonds.

Essentially, the vets help the horses recover from the trauma they have been through until the horses are ready for the right adoptive home.  Working and bonding with the horses helps the vets recover from the physical and emotional trauma of their war experiences. The Ranch also provides a nurturing environment for the veterans' spouses and children. Beth Rand, the Project's founder, said it best: "Our veterans can relate to these horses in ways many of us never will, and they thrive on the challenge, and our horses need their time and talent.'

There is a beautiful video, available only on YouTube, that captures the experiences of the veterans and the horses better than words can say. To watch it on YouTube, please click on the photo below:

Restoration Ranch and the Joyful Horse Project

More about the program that helps veterans and horses pursue rehabilitation together is on Restoration Ranch's website, JoyfulHorseProject.org.

Restoration Ranch is a true sanctuary for all involved.

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Julie and I will be adopting The Joyful Horse Project as one of our charities for 2017.  
To Mike, Beth and the team, thanks for your commitment to our veterans and their families. -- Jim

Jim and Julie at Restoration Ranch
Jim and Julie with Katie Camp and Derek Knapp at Restoration Ranch in Bastrop, Texas on May 31, 2018

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