Beginning Aug. 20, the Lava Lake Institute for Science and Conservation will take two groups of injured veterans, therapists and donors on back-to-back week-long horseback rides covering 200 miles through the length of the Pioneer Mountains.

Since 2012, after consultations with the U.S. Veterans Administration, the Lava Lake Injured Veterans Equine (LIVE) Program has offered injured veterans equine therapy in a wilderness setting. The program has served women and men living with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, military sexual trauma and other physical and psychological challenges. 

“The purpose is to prevent—for lack of a better word—recidivism,” institute President Brian Bean said. “We’re getting folks off the couch, from in front of the TV, away from self-medication.”

This year’s trip will proceed north from Lava Lake Ranch, at the southern end of the Pioneers, cross Trail Creek Road just east of the summit and follow East Pass Creek down to the East Fork of the Salmon River, then head west through the White Cloud Mountains to its finish near Stanley.

“It’s 200 asphalt-less miles,” Bean said. “I don’t know of too many places in the coterminous United States where you can ride 200 miles in a straight line without crossing a [paved] road.”

Bean said the first group, which will ride for a week, will consist of eight donors to the organization.

“It gives us an opportunity to talk about how important financial support is to the Lava Lake Injured Veterans Equine Program,” Bean said.

He said the second group will consist of three alumni vets from Boise, one therapist and a couple of donors.

A few people, Bean said, will ride for both weeks, ending the trip on Sept. 2.

“It’s going to be a little challenging just because of this February’s heavy snow,” he acknowledged.

Bean said the trip is made possible through the help of Mystic Saddle Ranch near Stanley.

According to its website, the Lava Lake Institute works to accomplish conservation and increase understanding of the wildlife and ecosystems of the Pioneer Mountain-Craters of the Moon Region.

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