La Valle, WI
Luvs Morgan Horse Rescue & Veterans Equine Trail Services (V.E.T.S.)
When Barbara Knopf began taking in Morgan horse rescues 10 years ago in Dodgeville, Wis., she didn’t think she would be using them to rescue people. Three years ago, Knopf relocated her rescue program, Luvs Morgan Horse Rescue, to La Valle and a year later, built a program around providing equine therapy services to veterans.
Knopf’s husband, a Vietnam vet; her son, a Marine Corps vet who returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan; and her stepdaughter, an Army vet; encouraged her to put her horses to work to help veterans cope with the effects of war and those struggling with post traumatic stress disorder. Knopf, who is also a Marine Corps veteran, said the mission of her program is to help veterans “regain a sense of purpose and self-determination by fostering the bond between a horse and a human being.” She has been working with each veteran to help them along the trail to healing with her nonprofit organization, Veterans Equine Trail Services (V.E.T.S).
“Both the horses and the vets need to build trust with people again,” Knopf said. “With this program, the vets develop a kinship toward the horses. The veterans make a connection to the horse and identify with them because they also feel like they’ve been thrown away.”
Knopf was awarded the February 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award by first lady Tonette Walker.
Knopf said she enjoys seeing the transformations the horses and the veterans go through when working together. The veterans work with all ages of horses and help train them to ride and drive. Veterans who cannot ride due to physical disabilities work with the cart horses.
“They’re often taking a horse that is antisocial, doesn’t want to be touched, and is wounded, to a fat, shiny, in-your-pocket horse,” Knopf said. “When the vets accomplish something in training, they feel empowered. They blossom and come out of their hard shell and communicate again.”
Knopf also recently started working with children with disabilities and children in the Inner City Slickers program. Inner City Slickers/The Awareness Foundation was founded by Michael McMeel, former drummer with the 70’s rock group “Three Dog Night.” The program is “a non-profit charity that works with at-risk children creating character, integrity and self-esteem in youth by combining the magic of horses with Cowboy Ethics.” McMeel is a clinician at the 2014 Midwest Horse Fair April 11-13.
Knopf said the horses don’t go up for adoption until they have been trained to trail ride and meet other training goals and requirements. Currently, she has 30 in the rescue, 10 of which will never leave and 15 horses that are in the V.E.T.S. and children’s programs.
She said her favorite part of her work is watching the people and horses change together.
“The horse is healed, the vet is healed, the child is healed,” she said. “It’s that full circle. “This job doesn’t pay anything, but it’s the best job.”
Knopf was also recently awarded the Jefferson award, a monthly community award by Newsline 9 – a North Central Wisconsin TV station – which recognizes people who give back to their communities.
320 West Street
La Valle, WI
- By Lisa Kucharski, Associate Editor
About the award:
Wisconsin’s first lady Tonette Walker is awarding a Wisconsin Heroes Award each month to deserving volunteers, selfless contributors and exceptional people for their willingness, compassion and commitment to the betterment of Wisconsin. Walker visits and presents the award to the winner. If you know someone who is voluntarily making Wisconsin a better place, you can nominate that person for a Wisconsin Heroes Award.