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Horses for Heroes

Photo from PATH International website.

In April of 2012, a Pentagon Channel documentary was shown which discussed "how military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are finding help through the power of horse therapy." The documentary, "Recon: Unbridled" highlights horses for veterans at Flag is Up Farms in California, an intensive three-day program designed to help veterans of all ages who have PTSD. See more about the program at The documentary can be viewed on YouTube.

"I think No. 1 is to work with veterans who have given up on life," said Monty Roberts, a renowned horse whisperer. Roberts uses his horse-friendly "Joining Up" techniques on abused and mistreated horses, and adapts it for self-isolating veterans who have post-traumatic stress.

Roberts' program is about learning to trust people by choosing to, rather than by force, he said. By using the language of the horse or the stress of the veteran to communicate, he added, his program engenders trust.

Horse therapy is not just available for those veterans who live in California. Similar programs have been started all over the country. Another program, from Stepping Stones Farms in Wisconsin explains, "Why use horses for therapy? One reason is because horses need a lot of care. A veteran can put aside his or her own troubles in the immediate job of caring for the horse. Horses are large and strong, which challenges a person to overcome his fear in order to work with the animal. Horses mirror moods, too; they respond negatively to negative emotions, teaching the veteran that his behavior can affect others, and making it necessary to modify behavior in order to work successfully with the animal.

"Much can be learned from simply observing horse behavior. Horses can be stubborn or defiant, playful or moody. They have a variety of "herd dynamics" such as pushing, kicking, biting, squealing, grooming one another, and grazing together. In the process of describing the horse and the interactions between the horses, clients can learn about themselves and their own family dynamics." Visit to see how this program works.

Another useful resource on horse therapy that you or a loved one might be interested in is the PATH International Equine Services for Heroes. PATH stands for Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. Their website not only tells you about the programs but also allows you to search by state for facilities near you that offer horse therapy for veterans. In addition, the site offers information on how a facility near you is able to start a program to serve veterans.

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