There are few professions more strenuous than serving in the armed forces. Therefore, when veterans return home, it's only right that groups exist to help them deal with the burdens they have acquired during their time fulfilling their duties. These helpful programs can take many forms, and because individuals and their circumstances differ so much from one case to another, this diversity of approach makes sense. The only wrong answer would be to do nothing for veterans who need assistance getting their lives back on track and accomplishing the difficult transition from the rigors of active duty to civilian life.
Healing with horses
Sometimes, spending time in the company of horses can have the healing effects veterans need. Idaho news provider the Times-News recently profiled Horse Therapy, a group that offers free sessions to veterans to help with mental health issues. The organization earns its funds through a thrift store, which opened in March to support veterans programs and allow them to be offered without cost.
According to the Times-News, Horse Therapy began with a program to help troubled young people but expanded its mission to assist local veterans. It combines equine therapy with modern techniques that scan activity in the brain and generate soothing tones to counteract aggravation. By helping patients meditate and relax, the sounds are being used to assist veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms such as anxiety attacks can be extremely disruptive in day-to-day life, highlighting the importance of seeking out treatment.
Programs around the country
The Idaho-based program above is far from the only organization committed to using horses as therapy animals. The Associated Press profiled another such group, the Right Path Riding Academy. That organization, based in Drumwright, Oklahoma, received a grant from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation to keep its Hooves on the Ground classes for veterans going.
When veterans come to Right Path, they learn the basics of horsemanship. Over the course of the program, the horses can have a healing presence, helping participants come out of their shells and engage with others more. For those suffering from PTSD and other afflictions, that transformation is particularly important and potentially life-saving.
A third such equine therapy organization exists in the towns of Harvard and Poplar Grove in Illinois. BraveHearts bears the distinction of being America's largest horsemanship group catering to veterans, the Northwest Herald reported. It is a pioneering organization in the field of equine therapy, with some of its work being adapted into curricula by the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International.
Paddy McKevitt, director of operations at BraveHearts, told the news provider that the healing that occurs in participants does not occur at a uniform speed. While everyone reacts to the horses differently, however, the results have been positive and encouraging, with trust and communication emerging and lives being changed for the better. One veteran, Mitchell Hedlund, told the Northwest Herald that without the help offered by the program, he believes he would be one of the many veterans to fall victim to suicide. Working with horses literally saved him.