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Cannon takes part in Heroes and Horses program

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Bareback rider Clint Cannon, a five-time qualifier for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (2009-2011, 2013, 2015) recently took part in a 10-day journey as part of the Heroes and Horses program.

Micah Fink, a good friend of Cannon, is the executive director and founder of the Heroes and Horses program. The non-profit program was created by Fink in 2013.

“My buddies who are (Navy) SEALs asked me to come be a part of this with my horsemanship and rodeo experience,” Cannon said.

Fink has spent 10 years on Navy SEAL Teams, both active duty and reserves. He conducted operations involving land and undersea mobility platforms in USPACOM, USCENTCOM and a National Tasking deployment, which earned him numerous awards — including the Bronze Star. 

The Heroes and Horses’ three-phase reintegration program, which is offered to qualifying veterans at no cost, utilizes the remote wilderness of Montana, in addition to the horse/human connection, to challenge and inspire personal growth in veterans suffering from mental and physical scars.

This innovative program utilizes expedition-style horse pack trips to teach self-reliance, teamwork and perseverance. Led by experienced instructors, many of whom are combat veterans and program graduates themselves, these veterans and their pack animals travel into the wilderness on epic, life-changing journeys of self-discovery.

Heroes and Horses inspires veterans to move beyond the difficulties experienced from years of war, toward a life of restoration and hope. This unique experience challenges these individuals, invokes change, and helps them to develop innovative ways to approach and solve problems. By challenging what challenges them, veterans can make peace with their past and replace devastating memories with positive ones.

“When you come home from combat, combat doesn’t make you sick, it’s not a disease,” Fink said in a One Eighty Out YouTube video. “It’s a set of experiences that are real intense. The culture changes you. The war changes you. You can’t help but be changed.”

Cannon took part in Phase 2 (application phase) of the Heroes and Horses program from July 20-29.

“We packed 10 days back in the mountains and ran a string of mules,” Cannon said. “We probably covered 130 miles and we stayed in the mountains for 10 days in the Beartooth Wilderness by Yellowstone National Park. We took these eight combat veterans back in the mountains for 10 days, and it was a tough 10 days. These guys broke down and they were wanting to fight and they were crying. We really got to see their true emotions and hear their stories.”

In Phase 3, participants can take the skills they have acquired through the completion of Phases 1 and 2 of the program, and work with either a wilderness outfitter as a hand, learning horsemanship, or working cattle on a ranch in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho or Utah.

Cannon acknowledged the 10-day experience was beneficial to him as well.

“I was helping those guys, and they were helping me,” Cannon said. “I’m in the same transition. This is my last year of rodeo, I’m done after this year. A lot of stuff these (combat veterans) suffer from is the same thing rodeo cowboys suffer from. When you do something for 16 years and then you quit cold turkey and have to jump into regular life, it’s dramatic on you, and I’ve been experiencing that.

“These combat veterans who were on our trip have been in the military like 18 years, and that’s all they know. This Horses and Heroes program teaches them that they can’t be a soldier in the civilian world, you have to find your niche. From day one to day 10, I saw a complete change in those guys.”

Cannon said he trying to get some of these combat veterans work with rodeo stock contractors as part of their Phase 3.

“I would like to see these guys working at stock contractors’ ranches and feeding and going to rodeos,” Cannon said. “Any stock contractor interested in doing this, I would love to talk to them.”

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