Horses to homecomings Published July 10, 2014 By Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs FIRST COMPANY GOVERNOR'S HORSE GUARD STABLE - Avon, Conn. -- The sun shone bright on the backs of horses, sleek and shiny from careful grooming. They grazed contentedly in their fields as cars began to pull in, children's eager faces glued to car windows, watching the animals with fascination. They were arriving to participate in the Horses to Homecoming program, held in Avon, Conn., June 21, 2014. Horses to Homecoming is a program that started off to be a deployment connection tool for kids whose parents were deployed, said Michelle McCarty, Connecticut National Guard Child and Youth Program lead coordinator. The program has switched gears, however, because not as many parents are deployed right now, so Horses to Homecoming is used as more of a reconnection tool, said McCarty. The Horses to Homecoming program is held monthly in Avon, Conn. at the First Company Governor's Horse Guard stable. "During the program we teach the kids about safety around horses, barn chores, and how to take care of the horses," said Capt. Edward Henfey, commanding officer of the First Company Governor's Horse Guard. "At the end of the day's program, the kids are able to ride the horses. Basically, this opportunity gives them something out of the ordinary to talk to their parents about, or write to their mom and dad about if they're deployed," said Henfey. This month's program started off with a safety briefing to the kids and their parents that attended, followed by a short lesson on the different parts of a horse. The children and parents were then guided into the barn where they were shown the feed and tack rooms, and were then able to participate in a fundamental barn chore, mucking out the horse stalls. Despite how repellent the task seemed, most of the children were eager to handle the shovel and scoop out the stalls. After barn duties were completed, First Company Governor's Horse Guard horses, Wes and Hannibal, were led out of their stalls and the children were able to take turns grooming and preparing them for riding. Once the horses were saddled and bridled, each child was able to ride either Wes or Hannibal, this being the first time ever on a horse for some of the children. "This was my first time riding horses," said nine-year-old Samantha Hall. "I want to come back again next month." After everyone had their turn riding the horses, including some of the parents, the horses were untacked and the children participated in crafts until the program was over at noon. Not only is the program a great reconnection tool between the kids and their parents, it's a way for the kids to connect with other military kids because they're so geographically dispersed, said McCarty. It's nice to have them all convene in one place and meet other kids like them. Any military-connected child can participate in the Horses to Homecoming program. For more information on the monthly program, please contact Michelle McCarty by phone at (860) 548-3254 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.