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Horses helping veterans to heal: "I'm grateful every day"

Mark Moran found himself in the Del Mar paddock for the first time on the second weekend of November—cane, wooden leg, eye patch, and all. It was on his bucket list. The trip south from his home in Washington state was a gift of sorts from his cousin, Boone McCanna. Moran, 66, is riddled with cancer—untreatable adenoid cystic carcinoma—but he's not overly concerned. "I'm going to live until I die," Moran says. "I should have died in Vietnam, and I've had 47 years since then, had a family—six grandkids—and I'm grateful every day."
 
Horses helping veterans to heal
 
Those 47 years have been bearable, at least in part, because of horses. After an explosion took his leg in Vietnam in 1969, nothing helped quite like grooming and hotwalking Thoroughbreds for his uncle and Boone's father, trainer Dan McCanna, at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash. There were no more thoughts of the horrors of war, just the horses.
 
"You build trust with those horses," Moran says. "They all have their personalities and if you treat them good, they treat you good. It takes a lot of worry out of your mind. It's hard to put into words. It helped me calm my brain, to just feel like I was connected to something.
 
"If you're working, you have dignity in this life. Grooming and mucking stalls—some people might look down on that, but it gave me dignity."
 

 

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