John Greenan faces many challenges in his daily life. As a former paramedic fireman and car accident survivor, John must deal with many health-related issues, including a traumatic brain injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and PTSD. However, with the help of a horse named Cappuccino and a service dog named Buggs, John is not only thriving, but he is helping to change the landscape of what it means to be an Equestrian With Disabilities competitor in the AQHA show pen.
“I was originally a fireman and got injured on the job,” John says. “I was run over by a drunk driver and was in the hospital for over a year. I had to learn how to walk and talk all over again. I was told that I was never going to be able to return as a paramedic fireman in the field ever again, but I did not let that stop me. I worked as a paramedic in a hospital setting for six years. Two years into it, I was diagnosed with Lupus. Then, four years later, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At that time, I was only a liability to the hospital and unfortunately could not work there.”
John encountered one obstacle after another, but things began to change when he started volunteering at an animal shelter. “I served one year as a volunteer and seven years on their Board of Directors,” he says. “That’s where I met a one-year-old, Chocolate Lab that changed my life. He was in and out of the shelter five different times because he was un-adoptable, due to his separation anxiety. He would literally destroy homes when he was left alone. I knew there was something special about this dog, so I convinced a dog training service to donate about $20,000, which is about a year’s training, to make him into a service dog. We donated him to a service program only to have him donated back to me and given to me as my best friend, my hero, and my service dog.”
That dog is Buggs, John’s now constant companion and partner-in-crime. Later, when John’s physical therapy progressed to the point where he could start riding horses, he met up with his trainer, Lorri Ebeling of Nova Quarter Horses, and a horse named Cappuccino.
“I started riding horses about two years ago as part of therapy for my many disabilities. I soon found out that AQHA has a class for disabled riders. That’s my goal. Unfortunately, I got into a little hiccup last year when I had to go for eight different surgeries due to complications of Multiple Sclerosis, but I didn’t let that stop me. My trainer thought she should teach me and my service dog to do Halter and Showmanship.”
“Lorri is the one who really inspired me to start riding in the adaptive riding program and was the one who came up with the idea of teaching both myself, and my service dog, and horse how to do Halter and Showmanship. She was really the one who was inspirational in pushing me not to give up on my horse dream when I couldn’t ride and to stay with it. She was the one who really started all this and her adaptive riding program. If it wasn’t for her, nothing would have happened.”
John’s equine partner for EWD classes is an 18-year-old Quarter Horse named Cappuccino, aka Terms On The Moon, who is owned by Olivia Rydzewski. She explains that Cappy’s unique personality is the reason why he’s best suited to help John and Buggs with this journey.
“Cappy’s personality is something that could never be duplicated,” she says. “He’s so social and so happy; but, most of all, he’s a wonderful teacher, not to mention he loves dogs. That’s why I think he will be so successful in the EWD classes and interacting with Buggs. Cappy has taught me, and other riders of all ages, how to ride and show. I was fortunate enough to show him in local open shows when I was just starting out and soon enough started showing on the AQHA circuit.”
After a lengthy discussion with AQHA officials and considerable paperwork, John recently received judgement that he will be allowed to compete in AQHA EWD Showmanship classes with his service dog, Buggs, by his side.
“We sympathize with your situation. It is, without a doubt, a difficult journey to follow, and as a community that shares a passion for the American Quarter Horse and all animals in general, AQHA appreciates that you find enjoyment in participating in AQHA shows and competitions. AQHA further appreciates that your service dog has provided meaningful assistance with your disabilities.”
“AQHA is pleased to notify you that you may participate in AQHA EWD Showmanship classes with your service dog. AQHA will accordingly modify its EWD rules to reflect that service dogs may assist competitors in EWD Showmanship classes.” – AQHA in a letter to John Greenan
“I just got the judgment from AQHA’s Show division that I won’t be able to compete in Halter, but I got a yes to be able to compete in Showmanship, so I will take that as a compromise and a win for people with disabilities. So, I will be the very first service dog companion and horse team to get to compete in a Showmanship EWD class in AQHA history. Our first show will be in Madison, Wisconsin, June 12th-16th, at the Cap Gun Circuit.”
Congratulations to John, Cappuccino, and Buggs on this victory and best of luck at their first AQHA show as a trio!