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Out of the saddle and onto the mat

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

WindWalkers is probably best known for the therapeutic riding it runs year round on Missouri Heights, but some of its most important work takes place outside the arena.

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“It goes well beyond the physical component,” Executive Director Gabrielle Greeves explained. “When you create health for one, you create the ability for them to engage in and heal the entire community.”

Case in point, Dan Nevins — a highly decorated soldier who lost both legs in Iraq in 2004 and now speaks around the world about the importance of perseverance, resilience and hope. A cutting horse competitor and accomplish yoga instructor, Nevins is at the center of two days of programming at WindWalkers intended to bring folks together and better help local veterans.  

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“There’s not too many people that can talk about meditation and horses the way Dan can,” Greeves said.

He’s volunteering his time to speak during a community table barbeque from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 23 then lead meditation in the field at 11 a.m. Sept. 24 — all at 1030 CR 102. Tickets are available for $20 per event or $35 for both days at windwalkerstrc.org or 963-2909 — RSVP by noon Saturday. You’ll also want to bring your own water bottle, mat and accoutrements on Sunday morning.

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The community table — with live music by Guilty Pleasures — doubles as a volunteer appreciation and triples as a chance to bring together some of the many partners in 13 years of outreach across Pitkin, Garfield, Eagle and recently Summit County.

“It’s one of the easiest places to start a conversation and see what flourishes,” Greeves said.

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Indeed, it’s just that sort of communication that brought veterans to the forefront for WindWalkers.

“We’ve taken on the things our partners have identified as important needs,” Greeves said.

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A request from the Grand Junction VA was the big catalyst, though Greeves’ own past experience with the Wounded Warriors Project didn’t hurt.

And while the combination of meditation, horses and healing might seem particular to Nevins, it’s actually a perfect fit for many of those involved.

Take Sheri Gaynor of Creative Awakenings, who offers years of experience in equine assisted psychotherapy and learning. It’s mostly ground work — no riding involved — focused on “teaching people to experience themselves in relation to a horse, which acts as a mirror.”

“It’s quite profound,” Gaynor said. “It builds self esteem, confidence, communication, agility and leadership.”

It’s also not the first time the WindWalkers pasture has been used for yoga — and for Greeves, riding is kind of the same thing.

“When you’re on the back of a horse, you’re focused,” she observed.

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