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Military couple bonds through veteran horse shows

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

After one look at Kay I knew I wanted to annoy her for the rest of my life,” said Ryan. “I just had to convince her to let me.”

Maj. Kaylee Bandy, United States Army Central military police planner, and her husband, Ryan, 20th Security Forces Squadron security clerk and retired Army staff sergeant, met in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Kaylee was in Tennessee on a temporary duty assignment while Ryan was in the process of retiring and was tasked with a final deployment.

Separation can often put strain on relationships. For the Bandys, they were able to keep the spark they found while Ryan was deployed.

“We have never tested our relationship, we have been rock solid from day one,” said Ryan. “We talked everyday while I was deployed and never had an issue.”

During his deployments Ryan was wounded by explosions hitting his Humvee. After his last tour downrange, Kaylee took him to a National Snaffle Bit Association horse show in Tennessee, which pairs disabled veterans with professionals in the horse showing industry.

“My husband and I both felt so inspired and this was something we could do together to help people like us who served their country and love horses,” said Kaylee. “My husband wanted to just stick his toe in the water and try it out, but after I made him realize this is something we have to do all the way, we are now fully invested in the NSBA horse riding program.”

Ryan said many people are dealing with their own personal demons and this particular program helps combat that by assisting disabled veterans focusing on something bigger than themselves.

The couple bought a farm, got married and stayed in Clarksville until June 2019, when Kaylee received orders here. Now the couple maintains their ranch and continues to sponsor riders in Tennessee. Fortunately, the Bandys were able to bring their prized mare, Emma Jo, with them when they moved.

When Kay introduced Ryan to her love of horses he wanted to ensure he understood how much the animals could help him with his PTSD.

“For me, Emma Jo gives me another avenue to center myself and use as a therapy method, than maybe going to the bars or going that route,” said Ryan.

Ryan and Kaylee participated in the 2019 Heroes on Horses classes at the NSBA World Show and the All American Quarter Horse Congress with Emma Jo, whose show name is Hot and Sleepy.

“Without my wife and the horse community, I don’t know where I would have landed after my service,” said Ryan.

The couple has made connections in all 50 states and been sponsoring veterans since they got married nearly four years ago.

“They are definitely one of those couples you admire and, being a single man, if I were to marry again they would be my example for what I would want,” said Carey Ready, the Bandy’s local horse boarder. “They have so much in common and I see them bonding as they brush their horse and talk.”

Four years and two deployments later, Kaylee says, remain as solid a couple as ever.

“We are in the final stages of our 501(c)(3) initiation to be legitimate and we are building our indoor riding arena, a larger barn and a full parking area on our property,” said the Bandys. “We will likely be in the horse show industry for as long as we are able-bodied.”