By: Ted Harbin
GOODING, Idaho – Micah Fink has a fiery personality, one that guides him to help others.
It came in handy as a Navy SEAL, a true warrior during the years he was in service for the country. His charm is even more fitting now that he’s the CEO and founder of Heroes and Horses, an organization that helps veterans as they transition out of fighting mode and back into society.
Heroes and Horses has teamed with the Gooding Pro Rodeo to raise awareness to its program and to support the sport that is closely associated with the organization. Fink and others with the group will be on hand for the rodeo, set for Thursday, Aug. 17-Saturday, Aug. 19, with a special “Beauty and the Beast” performance set for Wednesday, Aug. 16. All performances take place at 8 p.m. at Andy James Arena.
“We are a horse-based program, and we have our own beef program,” Fink said. “We have about 75 head of horses we are raising, including all the ground-up training, and wild mustangs.
“I think we’re tied to the rodeo culture and community. We have a guy who graduated our program last year that is riding bareback horses now. The partnership with the rodeo made sense to us.”
Fink will also speak at the Tough Enough to Wear Pink luncheon that coincides with the rodeo; that event is set for 11:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 18, and he hopes to convey a message that will reach every person.
“In every age and every time, humanity is presented with really great challenges,” he said. “It’s undeniable that we are in the midst of facing immense challenges. My hope is when I share, they realize that everyone is looking for someone to provide answers and insights and rescue us from this sea of stupidity.
“You have to act; you have to take action. If the doctor tells you that you have to lose weight, you have to act. We can make the changes. When enough people begin doing that, the whole system changes. It starts with one person at a time. I hope people are inspired in whatever it is to take action on behalf of their own lives.”
The purpose of Heroes and Horses is to take veterans that are having a difficult time now that they are no longer serving the country and help them via a highly intense, 41-day program that has them riding horses through the wilderness on an adventure that allows the students to wade through all that has gone on in their lives while also giving them hope to change the direction.
The organization’s mission is to “un-program the programed … to offer combat veterans with an alternative solution for defining and approaching their physical and mental scars – a solution that does not include prescription medicines or traditional psychotherapy but rather the opportunity to use tools to redefine their purpose, rediscover their inner-strength and maximize their potential by taking ownership of their lives for the first time since leaving service.”
There are some significant numbers that Heroes and Horses is trying to correct, most notably how veterans are dealing with the changes in their lives since being in combat.
“It is estimated that 155,000 veterans have committed suicide since 2005,” Fink said. “Our government spent $92 billion between 2012 and the end of 2020 trying to help soldiers through medicine. Students in the past have been on prescriptions with high numbers as high as 32 a day. They are still making the choice, because that’s the choice that is being offered to them.
“They’re making a mistake, because they’re participating in a highly funded but failed systems where the solutions have become the problem.”
Managing everyday life can be a tough task for anyone, much less former combatants who have seen the horrors of war. Numbing those experiences doesn’t help, Fink said. The participants that have gone through the Heroes and Horses classes are learning how to better handle the situations that arise.
“Life is supposed to be difficult,” Fink said. “You’re supposed to feel it; you’re supposed to experience it. Then life becomes every experience they need. They experience the curriculum. That’s what the transition is. Some get it in just a few days of their journey, but some don’t get it until near the very end.
“Take ownership of your life and realize that everything that is occurring is an opportunity to deconstruct yourself, where you come to the truth of who you are. It happens on horseback; it happens in the intensive and immersive morning routines over 41-days. They go through all these things to come to the conclusion that they can manage.”
In order to grow, the mindset must change. Service men and women sign up to fight for their government, to go into combat if necessary. They know what it means to be warriors and follow orders; when those guidelines are no longer there, then there is a period of adjustment that must take place. That’s how Heroes and Horses helps.
“It’s a much different thing to fight for yourself,” Fink said. “I’ve seen the most ardent warriors, really hardened individuals, be the weakest person when it comes to fighting for themselves. That’s the heroes journey.
“They are completely terrified of the death that will come in their own lives. When we open a 41-day program, it’s a 41-day ritual. They’ve never ridden horses. You’ve got to be in the mindset, because it gets real quiet inside of your head. There are no cell phones for the first three weeks.
“We are spending time with ourselves but learning to listen with our hearts. What horses and the morning routines teach us is how to feel. The secret is always in the feeling. The war begins between the head and the heart. The mind is always trying to reinforce its own correctness, so we have to teach ourselves how to follow our hearts.”
What Heroes and Horses does most is awaken the wisdom that is hidden inside individuals, helping push the means necessary to help them take the next steps, then keep taking them. Most of the people who lead the program are curriculum graduates, who understand the benefits of those experiences.
“A warrior only follows his own heart,” Fink said.
Courtesy of twisTEDrodeo.com