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Courage in action for horses, people at Courage Rock

Slideshow: This farm and its horses help people facing obstacles find opportunities.

January 4, 2024

9 Slides

by Sydney Altman

Kim Markham’s story is hard not to root for. She is a third-generation horsewoman. Growing up, both of Markham’s grandparents were professional instructors. Her mother operated a commercial horse farm. Through these experiences, she learned about different aspects of horsemanship and husbandry.

Markham drifted away from horses while starting a family. In 2017, Markham and her husband, Kevin, opened Courage Rock Stable in honor of their late son, Seth, who died in active duty in the U.S. Army in 2012. The stable is a constant reminder of Seth and the legacy he left behind.

Building it up

Now housing over 10 head of horses, Courage Rock began as a much smaller operation. Each horse at the stable comes with a unique history and journey to the pasture.

Pawnee is a 24-year-old retired racehorse. Originally named Busy Exchange, Pawnee later became a trail horse, where he acquired his new name. Pawnee’s best friend, Danny-Boy, is an 18-year-old retired Amish cart horse rescued from slaughter. The two geldings were gifted to Markham from Solid Rock Therapeutic Riding Center in Uniontown, Ohio, and became the foundation horses of Courage Rock when it opened its gates in 2017.

With a lifelong background with horses, Markham found joy with horses once again following the loss of her son. She had been invited to the riding center in Ohio, where her son is buried, and formed a special bond with a specific horse there. Three years later, Markham was able to move that horse, Pawnee, to Indiana, where he still resides.

“People had seen a difference in me because I was getting reconnected with horses, and they saw a difference in the horse,” she says.

She and her husband found a farm near Monticello, Ind., away from the hustle and bustle of town. This scenic pasture has plenty of room for horses to roam and play.

Markham gained certification through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH), which grants her the ability to provide equine-assisted services at Courage Rock.

“I think with his [Seth’s] connection with the military, that’s why that’s my first passion — to give my knowledge and what these horses can offer to military veterans, first responders and their families,” Markham says.

Equine-assisted sessions are not limited to military veterans but are also open to individuals with special needs who benefit from animal interaction.

Building the future

The stable held a chili cookoff fundraiser and Horse-tober Fest this October to raise funds for a new, indoor arena.

Open-air pastures and riding arenas come with large amounts of inclement weather cleanup and inevitable weather cancellations. Indoor riding areas allow for consistent exercise in safe conditions and additional available riding time for clients year-round.

The flexibility and convenience of an indoor arena would allow for new clientele to join in and develop their confidence and independence.

Working with Kevin

Kevin Altman is a beginning-level rider. He transferred to Courage Rock this past summer from Therapeion Therapeutic Riding Center in Brookston, Ind. Kevin has autism and speech apraxia and a love for farm animals, especially horses. While Kevin rode horses for over a decade, he only began riding unassisted at Courage Rock. Markham helped him develop a better connection and more independence with horses.

Markham assigned Kevin to Pawnee. “I don’t let most beginners start out with Pawnee, but I just had a feeling he and Kevin would work well together and help each other,” she says.

Both Kevin and Pawnee want to move fast, so it’s a challenge for them to work together and steadily build their relationship. In his lessons at Courage Rock, Kevin works with Markham to bring Pawnee inside the barn from the pasture. They prepare the horse for riding by brushing and placing all the proper equipment on his back before Kevin heads to the arena.

Each lesson highlights a different skill that the rider needs to develop. Obstacles are set throughout the arena. Markham works diligently and creatively to ensure that Kevin can complete his lesson with tactics that work along with his disability. Through riding at Courage Rock, Kevin has gained confidence in himself and looks forward to his special time each week.

For more information about Courage Rock Stable or to become a sponsor of the indoor arena, visit

Altman is a senior in agricultural communication at Purdue University. Kevin Altman is her brother. Below, she shares more about life with her younger brother.

Life with Kevin

To be part of a household where most individuals will never fully understand our typical day-to-day living is a unique situation. I let the never-ending comments disguised as compliments roll off my back.

I hear things like: “Your family does such a great job with him”; “I love that you all treat him like a normal kid”; and “It’s so amazing that you keep him involved.” But I’ve never known any different.

Kevin and I have a six-year age difference, so life without him is mostly memories lost in time. Life with him, most days, is brighter, sillier and happier. He is a constant reminder to be thankful and courageous.

I was 9 years old when Kevin was diagnosed with autism, speech apraxia and celiac disease. It was an overwhelming diagnosis, mostly because I did not truly understand the extent. Years of speech, occupational, and applied behavior analysis, known as ABA, therapy, lay ahead. The obstacles he faced sometimes seemed like mountains. Thirteen years later, Kevin has grown into a goofy and capable young man.

Kevin loves livestock and wants to be a farmer with lots of animals. I have watched him ride horses since we were both very young. I can’t express the tremendous amount of good it has done for his strength and coordination. This quote attributed to John Wayne applies to Kevin: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

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