At Stable Strides Farm in Flower Mound, Hercules is known by members of their therapeutic riding program as the toughest horse in the barn.
Ty Throngkumpola is up for the challenge.
“Well, I am a disabled veteran. I’m a post 9/11 veteran from the Navy, three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan,” Ty said.
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Ty is a medically retired US Navy Corpsman. In combat, he offered medical assistance to Marines.
“Where ever the Marines go, we go,” Ty said. After surviving three explosions from IEDs, he is trying to heal his PTSD and traumatic brain injury through horses.
“Now, everything is better in my life,” Ty said.
For the last seven months, he’s been riding at Stable Strides Farm in their veterans program.
On the Stable Strides Farm website, it says, “In partnership with the Military Warrior Support Foundation we offer a variety of equine classes. These are available to retired and active duty veterans. We will provide encouraging support for these exceptional men and women in recognition of your sacrifice for our country and our freedom.”
The program has helped Ty win belt buckles and trophies at horse shows across the US, including at the elite All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
His next challenge, is trying to conquer the complexities of Hercules.
“He’s not very forgiving,” Ty said about Hercules. “He likes a very strong and confident rider and that’s what he’s made me — is very confident.”
Ty and Hercules are preparing to compete together in the Chisholm Challenge in Fort Worth.
“When we perform, we’re just one team. And, you know, it’s just fabulous,” Ty said.
The Chisholm Challenge is a horse show that is specifically for people with disabilities.
“Because they want to compete, just like you and I want to compete, and they want to belong and they want to be rewarded for all the hard work that they’ve put in though out the year,” said Jessica Harrod, Chisholm Challenge show manager.
The Chisholm Challenge event works to support therapeutic riding programs that strengthen bodies and empower people’s spirits with the help of horses.
“It’s a 1,500 pound animal that loves you unconditionally, no matter what you look like, what your ability is, they just love you,” Jessica said. “And they want to help you, and that bond is life-changing in itself.”
For Ty, that bond has helped him keep his mind on the present and aware of his emotions.
“We, being humans of course, we can mask our feelings in front of other humans,” Ty said. “Horses? No. You can’t lie to them. They can tell if you’re having a good day, a bad day, if you’re angry.”
He’s also learned, that no matter what’s happening in his life — a horse can help.
“If I’m having a bad day, I just remember a famous quote, ‘There’s always someone waiting for you at the barn,’” Ty said. In his case, it’s a horse named Hercules, who is ready to help him work through any challenge.
The Chisholm Challenge runs Monday Jan. 14 through Wednesday Jan. 16 inside the John Justin Arena in Fort Worth. There are at least 225 people from 16 therapeutic riding centers in North Texas who will be competing against each other in 2019. The public is invited to watch and cheer on the competitors.