MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Barracks-dwelling service members can’t keep dogs, cats or even fish in their rooms. However, there is one pet any service member may keep on base. And it weighs more than five times a full grown man.
The horse stables at the Combat Center’s Outdoor Adventures facility have been open for 20 years, giving generations of service members the opportunity to keep riding away.
“It’s relaxing,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Tamara L. Marks, the leading chief petty officer for the Adult Medical Care Clinic and owner of two horses who reside at the stable. “You can have a horrible day, and then you go and pet your horse and life gets better.”
Outdoor Adventures charges $100 a month per horse for stables and $16 for a bale of hay that will keep the horse fed for about a week.
“For California, it’s a good deal,” said Navy Lt. Shelley Griffith, an environmental health officer at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital. Griffith owns three of the horses at the stables.
There are other stables off base, but none that offer the convenience of having your animal only five minutes away, she said.
But keeping a horse at the stables comes with more responsibilities than simply paying the monthly fees.
Owners must tend to the horses two times a day, caring for them and cleaning out their stall. They must also clean up any mess left behind by their animals while riding around the installation.
Both Marks and Griffith were horse owners before coming to the Combat Center. They brought their horses to the installation, using trailers. The fact that the Combat Center had stables to house her horses was one of the deciding factors when Griffith requested to be stationed here, she said.
Griffith, a mother of two, uses her horse for more than just the personal enjoyment of riding. Griffith’s daughter qualified for the Exceptional Family Member Program and needs horse therapy.
“Her doctors have always recommended using horse therapy because it helps keep her calm, and so we were able to continue that here,” she said.
The horses are available to their owners any time, day or night. They can be ridden anywhere on base, with the exception of training areas.
“There are things you don’t see unless you’re out on your horse,” said Griffith. “So unless you get out there, you miss a lot of Twentynine Palms.”