Every day, our country loses 20 military veterans to suicide – a staggering statistic that is not lost on the Total Equine Veterinary Associates (TEVA) team, led by Navy veteran Dr. Jay Joyce. When Dr. Joyce was first approached by BraveHearts in 2018 to support the first 20-mile horseback ride through Washington DC, he answered the call, before even collecting all the details, with a resounding “yes”. This year was no different, and as BraveHearts returned to the area for a repeat DC ride, Dr. Joyce again stood by their side.
Although Dr. Joyce doesn’t participate in Trail to Zero on horseback, his responsibilities to the organization, the riders, and the horses are of utmost importance. Dr. Joyce greets the team as they arrive to Morven Park Equestrian Center after a long day of traveling from the suburbs of Chicago, IL to ensure all therapy horses has arrived safe and sound. The practice’s motto “Healthy for Life” definitely encompasses healthy after a long trailer haul in preparation for a 20-mile ride through our nation’s capital, followed by yet another haul to the next stop on the itinerary, New York City. This year, BraveHearts has also added two additional rides, Chicago and Houston.
The day of the 20-mile Trail to Zero ride begins early as Dr. Joyce follows the team comprised of 12 veterans, a Gold Star Father, support riders and 16 therapy horses in the TEVA vet truck and ambulance unit. Once the group convenes at the start in Washington DC, the group is escorted by Capital Police, both mounted and unmounted. Dr. Joyce and the TEVA vet truck and ambulance unit follows directly behind the last horse as they slowly wind through the streets. With every turn, the military symbolism and monuments serve as strident reminders of the organization’s mission of awareness and prevention of veteran suicide. The riders and crew spend nearly eight hours traversing the city – one mile for each of the 20 veterans that take their own lives every single day.
This year, Dr. Joyce’s wife, Paula, assisted with the driving duties and even rode with the veterans as the ride came to an end.
Dr. Joyce’s care of the equine team doesn’t end when the riders dismount. He returns to the barn the following day to make sure the horses are feeling well and ready for the next leg of their travel – next stop, New York City.
BraveHearts President/COO Meggan Hill-McQueeney said after the ride “We are so grateful for Dr. Joyce from Total Equine Veterinary Associates for keeping our horses safe and well cared for during our entire ride. Thankfully we had beautiful weather and world class veterinarian care on the ready!”
Trail to Zero: https://www.trailtozero.org
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