MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Four Marines walk to a horse stable after a morning of work. A white horse stands tall in front of them, patiently waiting. Its owner slowly approaches and introduces herself by presenting a saddle to place on its back. Marines watch closely, ready to learn anything they can about horsemanship.
The Marines volunteered Aug. 24, 2014, at the Crazy Horse Ranch in Morongo Valley through the Combat Center’s Single Marine Program. They helped clear pens of rocks, prepare food for the animals and organize stables for the duration of the event.
Jacklyn Wilson, owner, Crazy Horse Ranch, also gives classes to the Marines as gratitude for all their help on the ranch. Wilson teaches the finer points of natural horsemanship.
“Your control of the horse only travels down half the reign,” Wilson said, owner. “Knowing how to approach a horse and learning their body language is a big part of natural horsemanship.”
Natural Horsemanship is the method Wilson teaches at the ranch, which has been open for approximately 12 years. She comes from a family of ranchers and has been riding horses for 50 years. About a year ago, she began inviting Marines to her ranch as an opportunity for volunteer work through the Single Marine Program.
“Every time I’ve come to the ranch I’ve learned something new,” said Cpl. Thomas Salukumbo, administrative specialist, Installation Personnel Administration Center. “With each class, I’ve learned skills that I could take anywhere … If I ever encounter horses again, I will feel comfortable around them and not be afraid.”
Salukumbo volunteers at Crazy Horse Ranch every Sunday as often as he can. Marines not only work the ranch, they also participate in classes given by Wilson personally. Wilson’s approach to horses focuses on suggestion as opposed to submission. The ranch offers trail rides, personal lessons and occasional clinics for groups.
“It’s been great having the Marines come,” Wilson said. “It’s actually become a trade-off. The Marines come and work, and I always give them a class so they can learn something new about horses.”
Wilsons’s ranch began with only three horses. Today, it houses 35 horses; Wilson personally owns 31 with 20 rescued and four from other owners. As the ranch has grown so has the need for extra hands. Wilson said she is looking forward to having more Marines participate and learn about horses in the future.
“I hope to have more volunteers,” Wilson said. “I understand Marines move often from base to base. I still hope some Marines become more consistent with coming down here and we form something of a team on the ranch.”