The Veterans Ranch - Working with veterans and their children to move forward in life


The idea for PJJR Ranch Corp was inspired by J.R. Smith’s father and a yellow notepad. His father, a Vietnam veteran, taught him to always keep a notepad next to his bed in case he had an idea in the middle of the night.

In October of 2017, he awoke and found the word “ranch” scribbled on the pad.

Less than 3 months later, after getting connected with the right people, PJJR Ranch Corp in Central Florida was officially a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. PJJR Ranch Corp assists veterans through equine therapy raises funds for children who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. They are the “Veterans Ranch.”

J.R. started PJJR Ranch with his wife Pamelo Jo, who’s family owned a tobacco and dairy farm in Kentucky before moving to Florida. While J.R. didn’t grow up on a farm or ranch, he says during his childhood in St. Louis, he always felt like he was a country boy living in the city.

It was his wife who reminded him how much he loved riding horses and how calming the activity can be.

“Every time we were on a (boy) scout trip (as a kid) and there were horses available to ride, I was the first one in line and if someone didn’t want their ride, I’d get back in line and take their ride,” he said.

The goal of PJJR Ranch is simple, get veterans who suffer from PTSD to feel one with the horse. That means at PJJR they do everything from simple trail rides to teaching people how to take care of and groom a horse. J.R. says equine therapy sounds like a big doctoral term, but it really breaks down to the simplicity of feeling secure and confident with the animal.

“We’re strong believers in dropping the d (disorder) off of PTSD,” J.R. said. “It’s something that people have walked through and now they gotta deal with. We’re not counselors, we’re not psychologists, we’re just country folks who know there is a simple connection made when you start letting the layers melt off of you and make that connection to the horse.”

J.R. also emphasized that a horse is the perfect animal for therapy because of the relationship you can build with “God’s majestic animal.”

“A horse can feel a fly land on its back, what do you think it feels when you’re on it?” He said. “It knows everything you feel, whether that’s anxiety, nervousness, whatever.”

PJJR also aims to work with families of those who have served by getting them to work together as a family on the basics of getting a horse saddled and ready to ride. J.R. mentioned that often times soldiers return home and immediately want things to be exactly how they were before he or she was deployed, but oftentimes it can be difficult to readjust.

“It’s not always magic on the first try, I’ve seen that happen,” J.R. said. “We always seem to want to have some boxes of Kleenex around, because we’re as big of babies as anyone. I mean I’m 6-4, 280 and I’m a big teddy bear.....You see these families break down and lose those layers of angst and anguish and everything and those things that sometimes get built up that we don’t talk about and you can’t help but lose it yourself.......It’s such a magical thing to see with people.”

Currently, PJJR partners with local horse owners who understand their mission to put on clinics, mainly, the Stokes Greenswamp Ranch in Polk City, Florida.

However, they have struggled to get horses that can handle some of the larger riders that come through their programs. J.R. mentions its a problem he personally has to deal because he’s 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, so he has to ride horses that are 1,200 to 1,500 pounds.

The more horses PJJR has, the more people it can help. And J.R. says the two groups that they are helping, vets and children, are the two most important groups in the country.

“What we do is like Apple Pie and baseball, it’s America, we want to help as many people as we can,” he said. “We’re big believers in the power of five, if we can help five and then help five different organizations help another five, before you know it we’ve saved thousands of men and women who may be potentially staring down the barrel of a gun or a rope or something because they don’t have a support group to help them battle through the experiences and the struggles they have had to endure.”