Veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder have been subject to a large, long-lasting conversation throughout the past several years, as advocates, the medical community, government agencies and others have worked to heal service members. Dogs have been the most popular animals involved, with programs taking shape across the country that pair veterans with service canines, and many have shown clear, positive results in a relatively short period of time.
The federal government is weighing a funding bill to make this a national pursuit, but other groups have not faltered or delayed their attempts to get veterans the support they need through this somewhat novel approach to therapy. Now, a new animal is entering into the conversation, as a program in one state is gaining traction and helping participants cope with their PTSD.
WATE, a local ABC affiliate, recently reported that veterans living with PTSD in Grand Haven, Michigan, are beginning to partake in a form of therapy that couples them with rescue horses, with Out Side In Stables running the initiative. According to the news provider, horses rescued after racing on the tracks often need their own level of support, and allowing people and horses to heal together has had a massive impact on some of the individuals involved.
"It feels (like) freedom. It's hard to describe freedom," Air Force veteran Chris Timmer, who served as a combat engineer throughout 1990s and 2000s, told the source. "A horse lives in the moment. I have a hard time living in the moment. So he's helped me live in the moment."
Interestingly, WATE pointed out that the farm's executive director, Jennifer McVoy, has been working to rescue race horses for years, as about 10,000 of these animals are slaughtered in Canada and Mexico each year following the retirement from racing. In establishing this program and getting it beyond the pilot, which has been going on for a few months now, McVoy is effectively helping to heal two groups, of different species, in need of support.
"Just like the horses, the veterans are so valuable for so many reasons when they come back," she told the source. "They just have to find the things that they're good at."
Two at a time
Although some of the more mainstream programs that pair canines with veterans specifically use service dogs to assist in PTSD therapy, others take approaches similar to Out Side In Stables. Yahoo! News reported that Pets for Vets, a nonprofit organization, has also been working to provide therapy and assistance to veterans living with PTSD and dogs who have been rescued in animal shelters of late.
This dynamic approach to therapy can make a big impact on any community, especially as so many states across the nation have large populations of stray dogs, and veterans with PTSD can be found in so many communities. More projects such as this one are likely to sprout up in the coming years as the nation becomes more conscious of the problems facing the veteran community.