Amputee veteran gets back on the saddle with help from local non-profit

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - It was something he never thought he'd be able to do again. An amputee veteran who, with the help of a local non-profit, is back in the saddle riding horses once more.

"I was not expecting all of Bakersfield to come out to this." 

But that's just what Bakersfield did on Dec. 16, 2012 to welcome home Joshua Brubaker 

On Brubaker's to-do list at the time? 

"Maybe play with my dog and pet my horse," Brubaker said.

Flash forward nearly five years and things haven't changed much. 

"Riding horses was my life before I joined the Marines."

Brubaker is medically retired from the military. 

"We were on a dismounted patrol on the way back to our platoon, next thing I know ... boom."

Brubaker stepped on an IED. He immediately lost his left foot. His right leg sustained major injuries from shrapnel and eventually had to be amputated above the knee. 

"I mean your life is completely changed and flipped upside down," he said.

Many things he once enjoyed in his life, including riding horses, seemed to be a thing of the past, until Brubaker discovered the MARE therapeutic riding center and his new friend Duke.   

"When I lost my legs, I wasn't sure if i was ever going to be able to ride again but with this program, I was able to get back onto a horse and get back something I thought could have been gone forever."

MARE partners with the Wounded Heroes Fund to help veterans in our community. 

"They've taken us in and treated us like family here," Brubaker said about the group.

It's not a traditional form of therapy, but it's therapy that's proven to work. 

"Having a bond between an animal. Once you find that bond, it's really hard to break and it could really turn someone's life around in a good way."

Manuel Ramirez, an assistant at MARE, said the therapy does a lot more healing than you can see on the outside.

"That's more than what it does. It just lifts spirits and helps people heal on different levels," Ramirez said.

Case in point, Brubaker never thought he'd ride a horse again, but he says "never say never." 

MARE also assists special needs children and adults. The program helps its riders gain confidence, release stress, improve social skills and strengthen muscles. 

To volunteer at MARE call 589-1877 or email volunteer@mareridingcenter.com for more information.


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