Enoch Malouff is a plenty handy roper—he finished third in the #11 Boehringer-Ingelheim at the 2018 Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale with formerly featured “Other Gig” rescue pilot Lowell Neshem—but he’ll tell you he’s a rancher first. He and his family operate the Orme Ranch, about an hour north of Phoenix and, with the exception of last year, due to COVID-19, they have spent the last many years hosting the military veterans of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program for fall branding.
The JMHP is a part of the Semper Fi & America’s Fund non-profit and uses various opportunities to get the veterans not just horseback, but cowboying, as its principal method for helping the vets rediscover the grit and mettle they possess that’s often required in everyday life. In short, the program is a far cry from more traditional equine therapy programs—a fact Malouff quickly came to realize.
“You expect it to be like a bunch of dudes kind of a deal. And it’s not that at all. They’re just the most genuine people. For the most part, as a group, they just dive right in. It’s pretty nice because you just kind of say, ‘Here you go,’ and they attack [the task] like bulldogs.”
Over the course of a few days, the veterans of the JMHP may be asked to do any manner of cowboy work, including gathering, sorting, roping, doctoring and branding. Then, the evenings are often spent learning a cowboy trade, like leatherwork.
“You’ve got to keep them busy,” Malouff said. “One year, we held up so we could sort some pairs and there wasn’t enough action. You’ve kind of got to keep them rolling and moving. They like to be busy, but it works pretty good.”
Hard work, plenty of it and terrain to match is ideal in the eyes of JMHP Foreman, retired Marine Col. John Mayer.
“You’ve got to remember,” Mayer points out, “these guys have the spirit of Americans that volunteered to go to war. Less than 1% of our nation serves in the military, let alone, volunteers for combat. So, Enoch tasking them with the duties of the branding pen is just perfect for them.”
Col. Mayer also directs the Semper Fi & America’s Fund Apprenticeship Program, which partners its members with industry professionals for mentorship and the opportunity to learn a meaningful trade. Examples of these apprenticeship opportunities include everything from boot or hat making to artisan chocolatiering or coffee roasting and, of course, ranching.
“John called me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this kid and he’s going to die if I don’t get him out of [Ohio],” Malouff recalled.
In response, Malouff said yes, and Col. Mayer sent JMHP member and Navy veteran Mickey Rivera to apprentice at the Orme Ranch. Rivera, who had run into legal trouble as a result of dependency issues he was combatting, headed to Arizona, thinking he had a pretty good handle on the whole cowboying thing. Needless to say, there was some learning ahead.
“They kept finding me on my horse in the wrong spot,” Rivera said of when he realized he wasn’t quite on the cowboy up and up. “I’d be on the wrong mountain.”
Mentoring Rivera wasn’t a cake walk for Malouff either.
“I followed Mickey more than I probably have any human being on Earth. Mickey came like the first of the year-ish—it was either January or February—and the day he realized what we were doing, it was September. I still remember the day. We were sorting pairs or dries and we had them in a corner and he knew what we were doing. He knew when to get out of the way. That day, I didn’t have to say a word. He knew what I was doing and he was great help. I still remember right where we were when I said, ‘You got it.’”
That was year one. Rivera stayed on for nearly two more.
“There’s a lot that Enoch taught me. I got bucked off horses; he made me get back on. Or, if you don’t know how to fix it, just take it apart; you’re not going to break it any more—it’s already broke. Those are the things he taught me that will stick with me the rest of my life. You just learn a lot out there. You learn a lot about yourself, about the animals, the land.”
In the end, Rivera discovered cowboying wasn’t his passion, but he did develop a knack for fixing things, which inspired him to enroll in and graduate from diesel mechanic school. He’s since returned to Ohio, has started a family, and is driving trucks for a living. He’s gotten his business license from the state and is saving up be a hot shot trucking owner-operator.
Rivera’s time at Orme was hard—the days were long, the hours interminable some days, and the living was remote—but he knows he wouldn’t be where he is if Col. Mayer hadn’t made the call and if Malouff hadn’t said yes.
“John was the stepping stone to get to Enoch. Enoch’s a really good person and he knows how to get it out of you. It made me what I am now, and that’s all Enoch.”
Currently, Malouff has another veteran cutting his teeth at the Orme, and he and Col. Mayer are brainstorming ideas for this October—Arizona’s severe multi-year drought has taken a toll on fall breeding rates, meaning no fall branding.
“They’re just the most genuine people,” Malouff said of why he hosts the JMHP and its members. “I don’t get to know all of them, but there’s always two or three that kind of latch onto me. Like, when they leave, you just can’t wait until next year, and I’m just so grateful of their service.”
For more information about the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program and the Semper Fi & America’s Fund, go to thefund.org
This article and Horse Week feature video are brought to you by Sentinel Horse Feeds.
Horse Week: October 3 - 9
Watch the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program’s military veteran cowboy crew at work during , Sentinel Horse Feeds' Horse Week feature video, The Drive to Brotherhood: Semper Fi & America's Fund's Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program on Oct. 7 at 8:00 p.m. EDT. Stream Horse Week brought to you by Boehringer Ingelheim Equine Health Oct. 3-9, 2021 for free from any smart device by visiting horseweek.tv.
WATCH the trailer for The Drive to Brotherhood: Semper Fi & America's Fund's Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program below.