When I put together a prize pack to give away after we got to 500 followers on Twitter, little did I know it would mean so much to somebody. I also didn't know this particular somebody would have an amazing story to share—a story with all kinds of emotions and, in the end, a happy ending with the help of horse racing.
John Davidson was the winner of the prize, and who shared with me the story. He had messaged the page when he received his prize, and let us know how thankful he was. Horse racing had saved his life. I was intrigued as to how that could be.
John began his story, telling me that in 1969 he was sent to Dak To, South Vietnam. He had come out of the U.S. Army a broken person, and in 1977 after his military service, had become homeless, living under a bridge in Dallas, Texas.
He met a pastor who mentored him, and helped him get a job working for the local electric company. John said he always knew there was something wrong with himself mentally. All the time, he seemed lost and angry.
In 1996, he was found to have severe PTSD, social anxiety, and depression. He hates to admit it but he did try to end his life a couple of times. During those years, the Veteran Affair (VA) really didn't have treatment for PTSD— until the Dallas VA offered an equine treatment plan.
"When I got to the ranch and saw the horses, I knew then that this is what I needed in my life." - John Davidson
"When I got to the ranch and saw the horses, I knew then that this is what I needed in my life," John said.
"My mental state has improved so much. I was able to go to a store or concert by myself without turning around and going home. My wife and kids right then saw the transformation."
In April 1997, Lone Star Parked opened and John spent as much time as he could there, just to be around horses, jockeys, trainers and owners. In 2007, he became 100 percent Service Connected Disabled by the Veterans Affair system. It was during this time he was going to Lone Star Park on a daily basis.
"Whether it's live racing, being with the horses, or just simulcasting, still till this day, it calms me like the first day I came in contact with horses."
John was fortunate to work for a guy who owned a few horses. Cleaning out the stalls and riding horses was better than any medication or psychologist could do for him, he said. To this day, he still gets help from the VA.
"I imagine it will be a lifetime of still getting mental health treatment," John says. "I've learned to live with that. Everyone in horse racing from the top to bottom are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I've talked to people all over the country about horses. It's a constant learning process. In just a short statement, that's how horses and horse racing really saved my life."
I first want to thank John for his service! I am so glad you were able to find horses and you are still with us today. You never know who you will come across in life or what you will come across. I agree with John that there are so many great people in this sport. The horses are amazing and I can see how they can be so great for your mind. John shared his story hoping it could help any other veteran out there struggling. If it just helps one, it was worth sharing