Our Story

In 2017, BraveHearts’ pilot program for Trail to Zero began in New York City. Since then, BraveHearts has brought its rides into more cities, increasing the reach of its message. BraveHearts’ rides bring the overwhelming statistic of 20 veterans who die by suicide per day to the forefront of Americans’ minds, while also educating the public about equine-assisted services and the benefits they can provide as an alternative approach to healing.

It is BraveHearts’ greatest hope to reach veterans who are currently battling suicidal ideologies to let them know that they are not alone, their community cares, and equine-assisted services are here to help. Join BraveHearts on its mission to spread awareness of the healing power of horses and ultimately put an end to veteran suicide.

BraveHearts is forever grateful for the NYPD Mounted Unit, US Park Police Mounted Horse Unit, the Chicago Mounted Unit, Kentucky Horse Park Mounted Police, and the HCSO-Mounted Patrol for standing behind us as we continue to ride until 20 becomes ZERO.

Our Rides

Where We Have Been:

  • Bull Valley, IL – 2020, 2021, 2022
  • Chicago, IL – 2019, 2021
  • Fort Wayne, IN – 2021
  • Houston, TX – 2020
  • Lexington, KY – 2020, 2021
  • New York, NY – 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022
  • Washington, DC – 2018, 2019

Where We Went in 2022:

  • Bull Valley, IL – 9/21/22
  • New York, NY – 10/1/22
  • St. Louis, MO –  10/29/22

    See Our 2022 St. Louis Trail to Zero Ride Here:

    Meet the 2022 Riders

    Brenda-Lee Anderson, USAF

    Brenda-Lee retired after serving 21 years in the Air Force.  While going through a difficult time in her life, she learned about the healing power of horses and equine-assisted therapies.  Brenda-Lee started her journey with a program in Yelm, WA in 2014.  Brenda-Lee first became involved with BraveHearts the following year as she participated in an Operation Mustang workshop at their farm.  During this workshop, she learned to gentle wild mustangs which became a pivotal moment in her life.  BraveHearts and the mustangs continue to have a positive impact on her life and is always blessed to be in the company of them.  Being from Oregon, she became involved in a new way thru virtual programs offered by BraveHearts during the pandemic.  Even with being over 2,000 miles from the farms, she did all she could to stay connected with the people and the horses at BraveHearts.

    Matt Anderson, USMC

    Matt served in the Marine Corps for 8 years completing three different deployments – two in Afghanistan and one at sea.  Prior to getting out of the service in 2015, he began to struggle with his mental health.  Navigating the civilian world became a struggle as he learned how to handle his depression and anxiety.  Although he tried traditional treatments and therapies provide by both the military and the VA, Matt has not found the answer outside the presence of a horse.  Matt connected with BraveHearts from a fellow PATH Intl. Center and with great recommendation for him to join our Trail to Zero team.  His desire and ability to share his story while helping others find their answer, makes him greatly called to the mission.

    Amanda Bethards, US Navy

    Amanda joined the Navy after graduating high school. She always knew she wanted to help people and being a Corpsman gave her that opportunity. While working in the medical field, almost 14 years later, Amanda and her family were introduced to BraveHearts in 2017. She is forever grateful for the introduction to such a life-changing organization. Amanda is continuing to learn how to manage her stress and anxiety more and more each and every day with the guidance of the amazing therapy horses, BraveHearts team, and her fellow brother and sisters.  Last summer, Amanda took her involvement to the next level by taking on the role of BraveHearts’ Volunteer Coordinator, orchestrating over 400 volunteers with about 23,000 hours in a year. Just recently, Amanda completed her PATH Intl. certified therapeutic riding instructor certification with the help and mentorship of the BraveHearts team.  Amanda has completed Trail to Zero rides in 2019, 2020, and 2021.  This year, Amanda will be participating in both NYC and STL, bringing her total Trail to Zero mileage to 100 miles. 

    Jonathan Byrne, USMC

    Introduced to BraveHearts in the fall of 2021, Jonathan started at BraveHearts as a volunteer. As a combat, United States Marine Corps veteran, Jonathan was immediately drawn to BraveHearts’ mission and values to support military veterans through horsemanship. Being able to volunteer and support fellow veterans, while also internally benefitting from him time at the farm, has been a tremendous avenue for his personal healing. Jonathan strives to continue his horsemanship, learn all he can, and hopes to one day become a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Jonathan will be completing his first Trail to Zero ride in NYC.


    Ken Boyd, Gold Star Father

    Ken is a Gold-Star Father. His son, US Marine, Cpl. C.J. Boyd was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. After C.J.’s death, Ken’s wife, Patty, attended, the first Gold Star Mother’s retreat held at BraveHearts, which she states, “saved her life.” Ken and Patty have supported BraveHearts veterans since C.J.’s death to honor C.J. Ken has become extremely active with BraveHearts through riding, helping with special events, and currently serves as the Chair of the BraveHearts Board of Directors. Ken and Patty purchased a horse in 2016, fortuitously named Brother, who now holds the name “C.J.’s” Brother. Ever since C.J.’s Brother came into his life, Ken has been riding weekly and attributes his healing to this remarkable horse and to the service he provides to BraveHearts in service to his late son’s brothers and sisters.

    Juan Cabrales, USMC

    Juan served from 2001-2009 as a Radio Operator for 2/24 out of Chicago. In 2003, Juan applied for the Chicago Police Department (CPD), but when he was activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004/2005 this was put on hold. After returning from overseas he joined the CPD. In 2008, he began to ride horses and found his peace in doing so. In 2018, he was able to join the CPD Mounted Unit which has allowed him to ride almost daily. Juan was first introduced to BraveHearts in 2019 when he was on duty to escort Trail to Zero through the city of Chicago.  He again supported the ride with the CPD Mounted Unit in 2021.  This year, Juan has become more involved with BraveHearts as a volunteer and veteran participant recently competing in the NYCHA BraveHearts Shootout this past summer.  This will be Juan’s first Trail to Zero as a veteran ambassador riding with BraveHearts.    

    Angie Colella, USAF

    Angie, U.S. Air Force, was a Security Policeman from 1989 – 1992. She was inspired to enlist by the military service of her father, grandfathers, and uncles. In 2017, the VA referred her to BraveHearts to help her cope with service-connected PTSD and depression, and working with the horses began making a difference in her life. Angie is on the women’s mustang quadrille, has participated in 7 Trail to Zero rides and is a regular volunteer. Her connection with the horses and her veteran brothers and sisters motivated her to become a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. She completed her certification this summer and is now taking her knowledge and experience to share equine therapy with other veterans.

    Meggan Hill-McQueeney President/COO

    Since 2010, Meggan has provided executive oversight, program vision, development and implementation, oversees volunteer, staff and horse advancement, provides instructor development, supervises and develops all activity at both farms. She is a PATH Intl. certified Master Level Instructor/Evaluator, a USEF Para Dressage Coach. As a congenital amputee, Meggan learned to use a prosthetic arm through horseback riding, and went on to ride competitively. Her experience serves as an inspiring role model for VSM who are adapting to post-service life living with disabilities. Meggan was honored with the PATH Intl. James Brady Professional Achievement Award for development of industry-advancing VSM ideas, initiatives, and programs and a Cowgirl Hall of Fame nominee.

    Ben Jalove, USMC

    Ben served in the United States Marine Corps from 2011 to 2015 and was part of the 3rdMLG 3rd TSB in Okinawa Japan, assigned to 1st MSOB in operation in the southern Philippines, and completed a number of training related operations in the Asian Pacific. Ben was a 3531/3536 motor transportation operator/recovery operator. Since leaving service, Ben has struggled with PTSD and went through a number of VA programs to help fill what was lost during his time served, without relief. Once Ben found BraveHearts in 2019, that void was finally filled. Being at BraveHearts and being with the herd, has given him a new light in life, helping him grow as a father and man. Ben believes that without BraveHearts, he would not be here today. He is in the final stages of his certification to become a certified therapeutic riding instructor to be able to show other veterans what horses can do in their lives.  Ben completed his first Trail to Zero rides in NYC and Chicago.  This year, Ben will be participating in both the NYC and STL rides. 

    Bill Mercurio, US Army

    Bill Mercurio was one of the 5 veterans who rode in the Trail to Zero pilot ride in 2017. Drafted in 1966 for the Vietnam War, he served with the 20th Engineers Battalion in Pleiku, RVN from 1966-1967. Bill and his wife Nancy began volunteering at BraveHearts in 2016. They quickly became immersed in the veteran program, riding together once a week. Tragically losing their son in 2017, Bill stated that if it were not for BraveHearts, the horses, and his faith, he does not know how he would have been able to get through such a difficult time. Bill leads BraveHearts’ PATH Intl. certified therapeutic riding instructor leading the all-veteran drill team and teaching fellow veterans all about the power of the horses.

    Brooke Milbocker, USMC

    Brooke served in the USMC as an unmanned aircraft pilot in Southern California specializing in surveillance and reconnaissance missions for oversight to support infantry and ground units on deployment missions.  Currently residing in Wisconsin, Brooke recently completed her Master’s degree in Health and Human Services and is now pursuing a Doctorate, with her focus being on Veterans and helping them achieve health, both physically and mentally, with an emphasis on overcoming trauma and addiction.  Brooke has a passion for helping others heal using health and wellness as she has found this to help her overcome trauma.  As an active volunteer, Brooke regularly supports programs around BraveHearts which leads to further healing with her gift of service.  This mission is close to Brooke’s heart as she has felt the benefits of equine therapy on mental health firsthand.  Her life has been impacted by several suicides in her own family and friends and is moved by this mission.  Brooke will be completing her first Trail to Zero ride in NYC.

    Shorty Ogden-Moles, US Army

    Shorty served from 2001-2003 with one deployment to Afghanistan. After the military, Shorty traveled and spent many years trying to find the same level of sisterhood/brotherhood she had in the military. Shorty and her family relocated to Illinois from the state of Oregon in 2020. Shorty and her daughter found their way to BraveHearts in 2021 and immediately knew they were home. Shorty battles PTSD and many other things other soldiers battle every day. The magic that happens on the property and barns is amazing and she looks forward to every visit. She has found a family of friends that she didn’t realize she needed.  Suicide prevention is very close to Shorty’s heart, because she was almost a part of the statistic.  She remembers what if felt like to be at the bottom and not knowing the right place to ask for help.  Her goal is to keep fighting to help others like herself to find their strength to claim their best life and  not stopping until the number is ZERO.

    Dana Severson, US Army

    Dana is an Army Veteran who served 6 years active duty fixing Apache helicopters. She completed a tour in Korea and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After her honorable discharge, she returned home to Illinois to pursue a business degree. A few short years after that, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Dana considers herself blessed to receive a life-saving transplant from an unrelated donor and is now 14 years cancer free. For years, Dana has struggled with PTSD and the after effects of Iraq and her cancer diagnosis. Dana found BraveHearts in November of 2020 and started riding and volunteering with her teenage daughter. BraveHearts has been the support and the caring, compassionate camaraderie she has been looking for since leaving the military. Her riding background was mainly English, but she has come a long way with her western skills. As a member of both BraveHearts’ Drill Teams, she credits her participation to furthering her horsemanship and has participated in the NYCHA BraveHearts Shootout and Trail to Zero.

    Laura Stieglitz, US Navy

    Laura is a US Navy veteran who served as a Hospital Corpsman from 2002-2007.  After an unexpected medical separation from the military, Laura struggled to find a new purpose in life.  In 2021, Laura got connected with BraveHearts and it has been such a gift to her.  The horses provide her with a sense of calm and peace paired with the BraveHearts’ staff and fellow veterans, give her the strength to take on another day.

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