Bringing peace and healing to individuals in F-M community, local equine wins international award

Brynn Rawlings
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

FARGO – Bronco, a 29-year-old dun quarter horse gelding, is known for his incredible intuition, steadiness and calm demeanor. He has helped many individuals become stronger in their bodies, grow their confidence and find independence through the Bison Strides program at North Dakota State University.

“For Bronco to be recognized as Equine of the Year by PATH Intl., the leading organization in the field of equine assisted services, is an incredible honor,” said Erika Berg, program director for Bison Strides. “All of us at Bison Strides are extremely humbled and grateful to work alongside this amazing horse and witness the tremendous gifts he has given to everyone – participants, families, volunteers and instructors – who has crossed his path throughout the years. We are so lucky.”

His abilities and disposition earned him the 2021 Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Equine of the Year award. This award is given annually to hard-working equine that symbolize the celebration of ability and optimism in the equine-assisted services industry. Bronco will be honored at the 2021 PATH Intl. annual meeting and awards celebration scheduled for Friday, Nov. 5.

“There are close to 8,000 equines improving human lives at PATH Intl. centers,” said Kathy Alm, PATH Intl. chief executive officer. “To be recognized as the PATH Intl. Equine of the Year, the panel of judges saw something exemplary in Bronco. He has a special spark that connects him to his riders as they’re able to grow stronger and enjoy his gentle nature. PATH Intl. is proud to celebrate his contributions. Congratulations, Bronco!”

PATH Intl. leads the advancement of professional equine assisted services by supporting members and stakeholders through rigorously developed standards, credentialing and education.

“For Bronco to be recognized as Equine of the Year by PATH Intl., the leading organization in the field of equine assisted services, is an incredible honor,” said Erika Berg, program director for Bison Strides. “All of us at Bison Strides are extremely humbled and grateful to work alongside this amazing horse and witness the tremendous gifts he has given to everyone – participants, families, volunteers and instructors – who has crossed his path throughout the years. We are so lucky.”

Bronco, who also earned the Region 6 Equine of the Year Award this year, began his legacy of service when he was donated to Riding on Angels Wings Therapeutic Riding Center in 2011. He shared his gifts there until the program closed in 2017 and he was then gifted to Bison Strides where he’s been living and working to make a difference in the lives of others ever since.

Berg said Bronco has had many great moments, but one stands out as a shining example of the horse’s influence on his rider.

Bison Strides had a shy and quiet adapted riding participant beginning her first session as an independent rider. She was nervous because Bronco was taller than any other horse she had ridden. But when the rider approached the horse to greet him, he lowered his head, closed his eyes and just waited, staying present with her while she prepared to ride. The participant’s mother has said that her daughter feels like a superstar when she is on the horse, and that she had gained strength, cognitive processing skills and most importantly happiness. She has blossomed in her confidence, grown in her abilities and embraced joy because of the skills she learned on the back of Bronco.

Bison Strides provides services for people with physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral challenges. The program partners riders with horses to meet individual goals. Bison Strides is accredited by PATH Intl. and is one of only 12 PATH higher education members in the United States.