Mariah Kochavi – Captain, United States Army

Army veterinarian featured in article on riding program dies

A therapeutic riding program at Fort Myer is helping service members regain mobility and confidence. Editor's note: One of the participants in the riding program, Captain Mariah Kochavi, 29, died December 24, 2009, of complications from a stroke she suffered last year.

By T. Rees Shapiro
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Captain Mariah Kochavi, 29, an Army veterinarian who had a stroke last year and was taking part in a therapeutic horseback riding program at Fort Myer, died Thursday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Kochavi died of complications from the stroke, her parents said.

Kochavi was featured in a Washington Post story Friday on the Caisson Platoon Equine-Assisted Riding Program in Arlington County. As part of their rehabilitation, wounded service members ride the horses that pull caissons containing the remains of fallen troops to Arlington National Cemetery.

Kochavi's mother, Mary King, said she picked up a copy of The Post on Christmas Day, the day after her daughter had died, and saw her in a photo on the front page of the Metro section. Kochavi is hugging one of her favorite horses, Minnie.

“It was such a blessing, seeing her there the next day,” she said.

In the photograph, Kochavi is hugging Minnie's neck after grooming her. “I love the horses' smell,” she said. “I love the way they feel.”

Kochavi was born Mariah King Steinwinter on April 1, 1980, in Washington. She grew up in Bethesda and graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 1998. She graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California, in 2002 with a degree in German studies and art. Her marriage to Ramon Kochavi ended in divorce.

Kochavi joined the Army in 2003 to pay for veterinary school at Tufts University, where she graduated in 2006.

Her first post in the Army was as base veterinarian at Fort Meade, where her patients included iguanas, cockatoos and bomb-sniffing dogs. Kochavi helped to set up an adoption program at Fort Meade for animals left behind by deployed soldiers.

Growing up, she raised baby mice and took care of fledgling birds that had fallen from their nests. She spent summers in Old Chatham, New York, at a riding facility where she cleaned stalls, groomed horses and helped with a therapeutic riding program for children with autism.

Kochavi had a stroke in 2008 while on vacation hiking around Machu Picchu in Peru. As part of her rehabilitation, she joined the Fort Myer program in April. She said it was helping her to regain balance and work muscles that she had lost after the stroke.
“Mariah was totally at home with the horses,” said Mary Jo Beckman, co-founder of the Fort Myer program. “She wanted to do so much and wanted to ride the horses that were going to challenge her. She was making good progress.”

In addition to her mother, of Bethesda, survivors include her father, Mark Steinwinter of Newton, Mass.; a brother; and a grandmother.

Kochavi's parents said they would ask Army officials to bury their daughter at Arlington Cemetery, carried to her resting place by the horses she once rode.

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