UPDATED: Monday, January 28, 2012 --- 7:00 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
A local horse therapy group is back from a march in the presidential inauguration parade, after a series of setbacks that nearly left them watching the event instead of riding.
AT EASE, which provides sessions for veterans, active military members and their families, set out on the cross-country trip but began truck troubles in Ohio, just half way to the nation's capital. After a day of repairs, they again broke down in Morgantown, West Virginia.
In the small city, they group discovered their truck was beyond repair, and feared their three horses might not make the parade. That's when neighbors from Deerfield, Tyler Nelson, Wesley Oren, and Chris Hinkel, drove nearly 700 miles straight to bring a new truck to haul their trailer through the mountains.
"We were so low that we were blow zero, and suddenly we had an opportunity to do just what we had set out to do", said Patty Roelofs, who filmed the trip for NBC 15 without ever anticipating the struggle.
At the parade, the group says some other entries and the crowd knew of their plight, as well as the President.
"It helped heal some of the hardship of getting there hearing that crowd yell for the veterans and yell for Wisconsin," said Stacy Lindbo. The group was the only one chosen from the state.
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 --- 12:20 p.m.
DEERFIELD, Wis. (AP) -- A Dane County nonprofit will be marching in the presidential inauguration parade in Washington, D.C. next month.
Deerfield nonprofit At Ease is a horse therapy group for soldiers, veterans and their families.
WMTV-TV reports the group was chosen to walk among the first few groups in President Barack Obama's second-term procession on Jan. 21.
The group started about three years ago at Freedom Stables and will send three riders and three horses to the parade.
Information from: WMTV-TV, http://www.nbc15.com
Copyright 2012: Associated Press
POSTED: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 --- 7:15 p.m.
A local horse therapy group for soldiers, veterans and their families was chosen to march in the presidential inauguration parade in Washington, D.C. next month.
Last week, Deerfield nonprofit At Ease was chosen to walk amongst the first few groups in President Obama's second-term procession along Pennsylvania Ave.
The group started about three years ago at Freedom Stables with its mission statement embedded in its name: A Therapeutic Equine-Assisted Self Confidence Experience. Participants connect with the gentle and well-trained animals, often relieving stress and coaxing smiles.
"They just know," said Paulette Stelpflug. "They know those people are hurting and I've seen it where the horse just wraps their head around them and they just go into tears."
Stelpflug says the group officially organized a couple years ago, and has since served hundreds of veterans. She credits trainer Teddy Schlueter with turning some troubled horses into gentle and reliable companions.
"I did not have the most patience years ago and horses will teach you patience," says Schlueter, a Vietnam veteran himself. "Between the horses and Paulette I'm a better person."
The group says they were selected from amongst nearly 3,000 parade entries, and tried not to get their hopes up.
"Paulette and I have not touched the ground yet," said Schlueter. "We're still floating. It is so cool to have harmony horsemanship horses and At Ease on Pennyslvania Ave. It's pretty special."
The group will send three riders and three horses to the parade.
The event is January 21. At Ease is a registered Wisconsin nonprofit that does not charge its participants for their sessions. They say they are always in need of donations, and hope to expand their facility, add handicap-accessible ramps, and introduce a cart for participants who are unable to mount a horse.
For more information visit their website.