Full Circle: Texas Woman Donates Heel Horse, Kids’ Horse, Saddle, and Ropes to Iraq War Veteran

Karen Hering, 67, spent her life in the saddle—whether she was moving cows on her family’s ranch near Alvin, Texas, or heading and heeling in the Coors Original Team Roping Association with her friends. But after years battling degenerative conditions in her hips brought on by treatment for breast cancer, she tearfully decided she could no longer ride. The thought of selling her two horses—Big Man, a fancy bay roan finished heel horse, and G.G., a gentle kid’s horse, perfect for moving cows across big country—broke her heart. 

And then she picked up the January 2018 issue of The Team Roping Journal, with a feature story on Charly Crawford’s Military Roping School, held each Veteran’s Day in Stephenville, Texas. She read about the veterans with PTSD who found refuge on the back of a horse in the arena, and she suddenly had an idea about where her beloved horses should go. 

“I called and talked to (TRJ account executive) Nick Griggs in Amarillo, and I told him I’d seen y’alls story,” Hering said. “And somehow, someone, had fixed John Kelley and I up through the magazine.”

See more: A Day’s Work: Nick Griggs Win the Businessman’s and the Team Roping Industry Celebrates

TRJ editors contacted Crawford, who passed Hering’s info along to veterans Michael Hall, Shawn Day, and Jon Kelly, and Kelly reached out to Hering. 

Kelly, who served in the Army from 1998 to 2007 and who spent 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, was really in need of a horse for his 6-year-old son Mason, and lived only three and a half hours from Hering. 

“We talked on the phone a few times, and she just said she’d bring them to me,” Kelley, who also has two 16-year-old daughters, Jordyn and Tristyn, said. “This has been her 120-percent. We probably talked on the phone for two hours the first day. She drove a good ways to bring them to me. I’m extremely blessed.”

Kelly and Hering when she delivered the two horses to Kelly and his family. | Courtesy Karen Hering

Hering, too, was blessed by the meeting. 

“Everything turned out for everybody who benefited from the situation,” Hering said. “I think Jon and I will always be friends. My whole family has served, from World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea, up until our last Marine retired. I love our veterans, and I thank God many times over that I was born in the great state of Texas and the Free World of the United States. My horses couldn’t have gone for a better cause than helping somebody who has been through what John has and is now making a life for himself.”

Kelly roped calves and rode bulls some as a kid, and when he was stationed in Fort Bliss outside of El Paso, Texas, in 2006, got the team roping bug. 

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” Kelly, who has been to Crawford’s school four times, said. “I’ve try to go now as much as I can. My main goal is to make the USTRC Finals or World Series of Team Roping Finale now.”

The horses are a new way for Kelley to connect with his son, who loves the small mare Hering called GG, he said.

“He sent me a film on my phone of him teaching Mason how to ride GG,” Hering said. “And if that’s not helping PTSD, I don’t know what is. That just makes my heart smile that Mason has fallen in love with GG.”

Hering called the bay-roan gelding Big Boy, but Kelly changed the horse’s name to Chuck, in honor of Crawford, who helped bring everyone together.

“I think it’s awesome that someone like Charly took the interest to work with our people who are keeping America free, coming home from war,” Hering said. “PTSD is real. I’m just thankful that God matched me with Jon and his son to have these two horses and brought them closer together, and The Team Roping Journal because y’all have done so much for these people. I really appreciate that the people in Stephenville are doing this for our people coming back from war.”

Kelly traveled to Crawford’s clinic again this year, and brought Chuck with him November 11 and 12 for Crawford to help tune up. 

“I want to say, as a whole, I think people are generous, and sincere when they say thank you. I’m not one of those who makes a big deal out of it—I try to live my life and have fun and enjoy my wife and kids and team roping,” Kelly added. TRJ

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