Every day, this country loses 20 military veterans to suicide – a staggering statistic that is not lost on the Total Equine Veterinary Associates (TEVA) team, led by Navy veteran Dr. Jay Joyce. 

“As a veteran veterinarian, I take great personal and professional pride being able to support this veteran suicide awareness ride through Washington D.C. Bravehearts remains steadfast in its commitment to our country’s veterans and bringing them the healing of horses and the support of teams of people willing to selflessly commit to them just as they selflessly committed to our country,” said Joyce.

In 2018, when Dr. Joyce was first approached by BraveHearts to support a 20-mile horseback ride through Washington, D.C., he answered the call, before even collecting all the details, with a resounding yes. This year was no different. The 2019 Washington, D.C. Trail to Zero ride was held on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Although Joyce doesn’t participate in Trail to Zero on horseback, his responsibilities to the organization, the riders, and the horses are of utmost importance. Upon arrival after a long day of traveling from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, he greeted the team at Morven Park Equestrian Center to ensure all therapy horses had arrived safe and sound. The practice’s motto “Healthy for Life” definitely encompasses healthy after a long trailer haul in preparation for a 20-mile ride through the nation’s capital, followed by yet another haul to the next stop on the itinerary, New York City. 

The day of the 20-mile Trail to Zero ride began early for the team comprised of 12 veterans, a Gold Star Father, support riders, 16 therapy horses, and the local contingency. The TEVA volunteers followed the crew in the vet truck and ambulance unit to the starting point. Once they convened at 5th Avenue and E. 90th Street in Washington, D.C., the group was escorted by Capital Police, both mounted and unmounted. The riders and crew spent nearly eight hours traversing the city – one mile for each of the 20 veterans that take their own lives every single day. 

Headquartered at the Morven Park Equestrian Center in Leesburg, TEVA is a full-service, 100 percent mobile veterinary practice dedicated to providing advanced on-farm veterinary care. Joyce, the TEVA vet truck and ambulance unit followed directly behind the last horse as they slowly walked through the streets. This year, Joyce’s wife, Paula, assisted with the driving duties and even rode with the veterans near the end. 

“With every turn, the military symbolism and monuments serve as strident reminders of the organization’s mission of awareness and prevention of veteran suicide,” said Joyce. Care of the equine team did not end when the riders dismounted, Joyce returned to the barn the following day to make sure the horses were feeling well and ready for the next leg of their travel – New York City. 

“We are so grateful for Dr. Joyce from Total Equine Veterinary Associates for keeping our horses safe and well cared for during our entire ride,” said BraveHearts President/COO, Meggan Hill-McQueeney, a life-long equestrian. “Thankfully, we had beautiful weather and world class veterinarian care on the ready!” 

“If through this ride, Total Equine Veterinary Associates and I can touch any family willing to either donate money or time or reach out to a veteran friend in need and get them help before it’s too late, we’ve met our mission by providing this great event to DC and the surrounding area,” added Joyce. ML