When Navy veteran André Andrews signed up for Legion College, he didn’t realize that the connections he would make could lead to the achievement of his dreams. The combination of wanting to bring a piece of home to his new residence in California and a desire to learn more about leadership opportunities within The American Legion turned out to be the perfect formula. With a little hard work and help from a trusted mentor, Andrews was able to start a veteran equine therapy program called Warriors Road.
Being a third-generation rancher, Andrews grew up around horses. After his time in the Navy, he found himself settling down in southern California where he didn’t have exposure to the lifestyle of his youth. Wanting to get back into it, he volunteered at a ranch to fine-tune his skills with horses. It wasn’t long before he had an idea, “...thinking up this fairly decent idea, wanting to work with veterans as well, I thought of this equine opportunity, or equine experience."
He wanted to create an equine healing non-profit organization where veterans could spend quality time with horses. He brought up the idea with his instructor from Legion College, Post 502 Moorpark, Calif., member Barbara Lombrano, who is currently the adjutant for Area 6 in the Department of California. Lombrano had been around horses her entire life and jumped at the chance to be involved. “You know I really love this idea, so I told André whatever I can do to help, I want to be involved," she said.
Once he returned from Legion College, Andrews presented his idea to the leadership of his post, No. 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Impressed with the quality of his proposal and love for horses they gave him what he needed to get started. Lombrano was able to help acquire additional forms of financial support, and now Warriors Road maintains six horses and has helped more than 100 veterans.
There are several ways in which a veteran can spend time with horses at Warriors Road. Andrews' goal is to help them get to know all aspects of the horse, from feeding to grooming to tacking, and, when ready, riding. Some veterans like to come out and just spend time with the horses while others get the full experience of going for rides on the trails. "We want a good, great, safe ride. We give the veterans an hour or two of riding out in nature, and provide them with this new challenge. And when they come back that's when we reflect with the veterans."