Heroes and Horses: Challenging the Status Quo of Veteran Care
Introduction: In this interview, Alan Olsen, CPA and featured guest Micah Fink discuss how Horses and Heroes use horses to aid veteran care and much more.
Welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Micah Fink, CEO and founder of Heroes and Horses. Micah, welcome to today’s show.
Alan, thank you for having me.
Micah, you’ve had a remarkable life journey. Can you share your background and how you ended up joining the military?
I’ll recap 44 years briefly. I grew up in upstate New York, a small town kid, 12 people in my graduating class, and worked as a telephone lineman. I traveled a lot when I was younger, doing mission work with my family.
I was a lineman on a telephone pole in Queens, New York, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I was about 60 feet up on a pole, working on a power supply system. I came down and went to ground zero while everyone else was exiting the city.
I was there when tower seven fell. That moment transformed my life and led me to join the military.
I wouldn’t have joined otherwise; I was playing drums in a ska band and interested in being a lineman, not wanting to be told what to do or run around in boots. But that moment was a time for me to rise.
How many tours of duty did you do?
I was in the SEAL teams, then became a CIA paramilitary contractor. Between both careers, I did 13 combat deployments.
My gosh, there must be many stories to tell. Let’s jump forward and talk about your transition back to civilian life after 13 tours of duty. What was that like for you?
I equate it to an extreme change of pressure, like an IED blast, going from one environment to routine world quickly, which can be lethal.
Without the right tools, people, or institutions, the national statistics on veteran suicides and joblessness speak for themselves.
The cost of post-9/11 veterans care is projected to be $3.5 trillion by 2050. 54% of these veterans are already on VA assisted care, compared to 24% of World War II veterans.
The solutions encountered upon returning home decide an individual’s fate, and it’s been dismal. I initially sought help, didn’t like the diagnosis or solutions, and decided to find my own way.
Recognizing the problem, you came up with a solution. Can you tell us about the organization you started and what it stands for?
In talking about solutions, what I found was that the solutions we currently have are the problem. We create the perpetual patient.
As a culture, we have gotten into the business of helping people and out of the business of teaching people how to help themselves.
When the helper goes away, the person has developed no fortitude, no constitution, and no resolve to stand on their own, resulting in a cyclic series of events. Recent statistics show that if the Veterans Administration reported drug overdoses as a form of suicide, it would be at 44 per day.
Between 2012 and the end of 2020, $92 billion was spent, and more than 150,000 veterans have taken their own lives. The living dead is what I focus on; it’s a pandemic of the drugging of the American Veteran and failed solutions.
My journey was finding my own way by teaching other people how to find theirs.
How did the organization Heroes and Horses come about? Tell us about your first experience of taking these veterans?
Heroes and Horses is one man’s story of healing his own wounds. Initially, I was leasing ranches, shoeing horses, working on a ranch, and had met some cowboys and outfitters that took me under their wing.
It connected me with these animals that had a huge impact and transformed my life. I invited a couple of friends in a bad way to Montana, did some cowboy stuff for 10 days, went into the mountains, and realized struggle gives everything value.
This key component was missing in our culture today. The solutions have been easy ways, take a pill, stay at home, don’t do anything, wait for change to come rather than being the change. I launched Heroes and Horses after realizing this, initially bringing guys out for 10 days.
After a student’s death in the second season, the program is now 41 days and very comprehensive.
Walk me through the process of the 41-day program.
The 41-day program includes no hot showers, no cell phones, sauna, working out, breath work, meditation, 500-600 miles on horses, two Lakota sweat lodges, a Maxim Lab leadership course, and a specific food program.
The average student loses 22 pounds, stays in a cabin with no electricity, no running water, chops wood, and carries water. It gets individuals outside of psychic thought prisons, allowing them to realize when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
They learn to use their mind without their minds taking over, reengage with fundamental processes, and uncover and discover who they are outside of identity.
Challenges in life are necessary for learning about oneself, and this program helps veterans find the real purpose in their lives.
How do wild horses play a pivotal role in the self-discovery process?
Horses are prey animals, absolutely designed to run away from predators, with eyes in front of their head and binocular monocular vision. They have the highest VO2 max of any land animal on earth. A person wants to ride them, which requires a balance within oneself.
Horses sense your true nature; if you’re anxious or angry inside, they’ll withdraw. They reflect back who you are, establishing trust and helping you see yourself honestly, which we call horsemanship.
How do you envision Heroes and Horses evolving in the next decade to further serve veterans?
I’ve launched the Thought Revolution, promoting the idea that thoughts create conditions, leading to actions and experiences. We’re partnering with other organizations to spread our effective philosophy and principles.
My goal is to align 10% of existing organizations and inspire change. We’re networking globally and aim to generate social capital, prioritizing transformative change in how we show up in the world, starting from our hearts to our homes and work.
How does a person get involved with your organization?
Heroes and Horses is a nonprofit; people can donate, host events, give talks, or volunteer in various capacities such as ranch work, mentoring, or cooking. Our programs are transformational even for volunteers.
Follow us on Instagram, check out our YouTube videos, and get involved with the community and the Thought Revolution. It’s about self-mastery, caring for your body, relationships, work, and contributing to the world. It’s not just for veterans; anyone can join this movement.
Yeah, Heroes and Horses is a nonprofit; we’re raising money, which is a difficult task with so many institutions and initiatives worldwide. Despite this, we remain active, hosting events, dinners, and talks.
We offer various volunteer opportunities, requiring a week-long commitment, starting work at 4:30 am with no days off. This experience is transformational, not just for the veterans we help but for the volunteers as well.
They can assist in different capacities, including horsemanship, ranch work, mentoring, cooking, or helping with our food program.
We encourage people to follow us on Instagram @heroesandhorses, check out our YouTube channel for insightful videos, and get involved with our community and the Thought Revolution movement.
Our focus is on self-mastery—watching what we put in our bodies, consume digitally, how we conduct our relationships, and contribute to the world. You don’t have to be a veteran to get involved; we invite everyone to join us in creating a collective, positive change.
Micah, it’s been a pleasure having you discuss Heroes and Horses. Your work is inspirational. We will share the link for listeners interested in getting involved. Keep up the great work.
Thank you, Alan. I appreciate the opportunity to share about our work and am grateful for your support.
For more information on Heroes and Horses visit: https://heroesandhorses.org
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The above transcript was generated by software; therefore it may contain errors.