Equine Services for Heroes

Healing Reins is excited to announce it has become a recognized provider of Wounded Warrior Project services, now known as Equine Services for Heroes!

The mission of Wounded Warrior Project™ (WWP) is to honor and empower wounded warriors. The project’s purpose is to raise awareness to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other… and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a hand extended to encourage warriors as they adjust to their “new normal” and realize improved quality of life. To qualify and be approved for services, a U.S. service member needs to have sustained a service-connected injury, illness or wound in mind or body co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001.

Since the American Revolution, horses have been a vital part of the military effort. A soldier riding a horse has been a symbol of war and physical courage – an icon of the brave willing to ride into the "valley of death" to defend home and country. Horses are once again are coming to the aid of the military, but this time it is to help wounded warriors not in battle, but when they return home. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, which involves using horses to aid in the recovery of psychological wounds, is a successful new treatment model for returning veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“I am a Vet and have been attending groups to help with my PTSD since 2004 with little positive impact. When I was introduced to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy my life changed. Therapy with horse gave me an insight that did not know was possible. I was able to see the positive and negative within myself due to the exercise with the horses and working with the group. Now I attend church on a regular basis, I no longer sit at home doing nothing. I can control my anger most of the time. This is the type of therapy every Veteran should have access to.
  - Quote from a veteran attending an EAP program.

For many reasons not completely understood, post-traumatic stress syndrome is on the increase among veterans deployed in the Middle East. In previous wars, the percent of soldiers with the disorder was between 7% and 10%; however, among veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, that rate is closer to 20% to 25%.

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is particularly effective with veterans and other victims of trauma who tend to avoid "talk" therapy because their memories are so painful. Many veterans with PTSS do not want to admit they have a problem because they fear the stigma of mental illness and career-related repercussions. They often refuse the armed services’ typical offer of ten individual counseling sessions over a 15-week period. This is where equine therapy can be helpful and very effective.

Understanding the strategies for combat survival as well as what symptoms might be exhibited in post war veterans upon re-introduction to civilian life is what makes this form of therapy so effective. The issues that EAP is particularly effective for are PTSD, depression, moodiness, inappropriate anger, substance abuse, grief issues, identity problems, panic attacks, sleep disorders and religious or spiritual problems. Working with horses teaches PTSS survivors to relax and to adapt their behaviors and body language to the needs of the horse. As one trainer put it, "A horse is 1200 pounds of lie detector. He responds positively to positive words and behaviors, and negatively to negative words and behaviors."

The EFP experience allows an immediate forum to explore different ways to address and help begin to solve these concerns by:
• A nature induced sense of well being and calm.
• An ability to make future plans and be goal directed.
• An ability to communicate feelings & thoughts openly.
• Shedding emotional armor to bring intimacy back into one’s life.
• Increasing skills in problem solving.
• An ability to cope effectively with emotions and behaviors.

Although some who take part in equine therapy actually ride the horses as part of the program, the emphasis of this therapy model is learning to read and respond to non-verbal communication. Because horses are prey animals, they respond intuitively to environmental cues and especially from other living beings sharing their space.

Please contact Polly Cohen, Program Director for more information about this wonderful program.