First Lady Tonette Walker

First Lady Walker Visits Wisconsin Hero Barbara Knopf

by Reedsburg Times-Press
Friday, February 28, 2014

A surprise ceremony was held Wednesday morning at September Farms near La Valle. Surrounded by many supporting veterans, First Lady Tonette Walker presented Barb Knopf of La Valle with the “Wisconsin Heroes” award.

Knopf manages the Luvs Morgan Horse Rescue along with the V.E.T.S – Veterans Equine Trail Service – program in La Valle. She cares for rescued horses along with veterans who need help adjusting to life.

“It’s both physical and mental exercise,” Knopf said previously about the program. “It gets (veterans) out of the house and moving. Being a Marine myself, it’s a way for me to hook up with my Marines. These guys get the whole farm experience – cleaning stalls, loading with hay and dealing with the babies. It’s really soothing. When you’re having a bad day, these horses get you out of it. They don’t tell any lies. They don’t gossip. They don’t tell any of your secrets.”

She and veterans also work with “Inner City Slickers,” a troubled-youth program that helps young people learn to trust and live happier lives. The program’s founder is Michael McMeel, once the drummer for rock legends Three Dog Night. The reason the program works, he says, is because of the nature of horses.

“They just do things. They’re unpredictable,” he said while in La Valle to bring the program to the area. “They have to learn to trust their riders. These horses here in La Valle have been hurt, but they still want to connect. These kids are unpredictable. They need to learn to trust. They’ve been hurt. So we do a lot of trust exercises. We do the trust ladder, where they climb to the top of the ladder, cross their arms and fall backward, trusting to be caught.

“I try to provide an environment that’s a bit scary. I tell them, ‘Listen, we’re going to be doing some scary things. I’ll be pushing a bit. I’ve got this thing together, though, that if you just follow me and trust me, you’re going to learn some things about yourself.’”

After Wednesday’s presentation by the First Lady, Knopf said she is looking forward to making a difference in many lives in 2014 – differences for horses, for veterans and for youth in Wisconsin.

La Valle-area residents say congratulations and thanks for her service.