On October 22, 2017, five-veterans were led by BraveHearts President/COO, Meggan Hill-McQueeney and US Olympic Rider, Aaron Ralston, on a 20-mile ride through New York City to raise awareness for the 20 veterans we lose every day to suicide.
Why Create This Ride?
Trail to Zero was developed after countless conversations with veterans on an epidemic in our country – veterans losing brothers and sisters to suicide. Through heartbreaking conversations, it was apparent that this was tragically affecting so many. The common response was veterans at BraveHearts said horses had helped them in their weakest moments. As part of the largest PATH Intl. center for veterans in the country, our veterans wanted a movement; a 20-mile horseback ride. They decided to ride a mile for each veteran lost to suicide every day.
Selecting the Veterans & Preparing for the Ride
Veterans are selected based on attendance, commitment, outside efforts, personal impact, group dynamics, horsemanship, riding skills, and prior experience traveling with BraveHearts. Prep rides with veterans were supported by outriders and coaches. These prep rides allowed riders to get their anxiety out and solidify partnerships with horses. Additionally, Meggan, BraveHearts President/COO and PATH Intl. Master Level Instructor, and Aaron rode the route in NYC prior to the ride.
“It was more than the 20-mile ride that inspired me. It was the positive response of the NY people we spoke to in Central Park and especially at Ground Zero. The response was overwhelming and very supportive” – Bill Mercuio, Trail to Zero Veteran
The Outpouring Support
This ride would not have been possible without the overwhelming support from the Oberweiler Foundation who believed in BraveHearts mission and who took a chance on Trail to Zero as well as the many private donors who helped fund this ride. Additionally, the outpouring support we received from NYC was more than we could have dreamed. During the 2017 Trail to Zero Ride, BraveHearts teamed up with the Mounted New York Police Dept., NYPD and NYFD for assistance on safety while in the city. They closed down streets for us and rode with us the entire ride, giving complete protection to the BraveHearts team. Additionally, we had a veterinarian check the horses before, during and after the ride to ensure the horses’ safety and well-being. These collaborations played an instrumental role in making this ride safe for all involved, and we plan to count on all of these collaborations for future rides.
After 7.5 hours – all of the BraveHearts team completed the 20 miles – 1 mile ridden for every veteran lost each day to suicide.
“The horses were the backbone of our trip. For many on the ride, the horses were the very reason they, themselves, were not a statistic.”
– Mitchell Reno, Trail to Zero Veteran