American's Heroes Rescuing America's Icon
On six bucolic acres in Calverton, N.Y., rescue horses, veterans, and first responders have found a place of healing and well-being at the Warrior Ranch Foundation. Eileen Shanahan (B.F.A. ’87), founder and president, has created a place to rescue, retrain, and repurpose troubled horses while offering veterans, many suffering from PTSD, a path and purpose.
“Veterans are natural leaders,” Shanahan explained. “Horses need and want leadership; they react to our body language and begin to build trust. Horses receive the energy that we give off and respond accordingly.” Veterans are invited to attend clinics and workshops where they learn from an expert how to work with horses in several capacities. They engage in non-riding activities such as grooming and feeding, develop bonds, give guidance, demonstrate leadership, and help horses to overcome certain fears. The rehabilitated horses are cared for until they are ready for adoption. In return, the veterans experience companionship and lower stress levels. “We give them a chance to decompress and relax,” Shanahan explained.
The program started in her backyard in Islip Terrace, N.Y. When 148 acres of the Beagle Club were sold to Suffolk County for preservation, she persuaded local officials to donate six acres to the Warrior Ranch. A group of volunteers, including many veterans, cleared and repurposed the overgrown property. “Veterans came, and they are building the place we are here to serve. Like the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come,” she said.
Word of mouth and social media have been the main avenues to promote the foundation. Sixty percent of the funds to operate the ranch come from public and private donations raised through fundraising activities at the ranch and collaborations with local community organizations. The rest comes from grants and corporate sponsorships.
To communicate her love of country, love of horses, and desire to give back, Shanahan produced the documentary One Soldier One Horse “We had a showing at Stony Brook University in the Wang Center Theatre in November 2018. It was re-edited and then put on Fox Nation.com as Warrior Ranch in May of 2020 and is narrated by Joey Jones of the U.S. Marine Corps,” she said.
Shanahan, who played softball at New York Tech, credits the university and her professors with “teaching her how to tell a story.” In Associate Professor of Communication Arts James Fauvell’s television production class in the 1980s, Shanahan learned how to be a reporter, always asking who, what, where, when, why, and how. After covering a story on domestic abuse, she wanted to dig further into the story. Fauvell gave her the opportunity, and this led to a 15-minute segment on New York Tech’s LI News Night, launching her career in shooting, editing, and producing television programs and commercials.
Shanahan also supports our troops in other ways by volunteering as vice president for the New York Leatherneck Campaign Ball, a subsidiary of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, which provides educational scholarships to military children. Additionally, in fall 2022, she will be recognized for outstanding community service by Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs at no charge to the recipient.