SELF-MANAGE THEIR ANXIETY LEVELS: Horses actually have the same mental behaviors that a veteran with PTSD has, and this helps attract the veteran to the horse. Horses are hyper alert to their surrounding and hyper reactive to potential threats. They like to be in a herd where all are watching for threat dangers. Not only do they watch their surroundings, but they are extremely good at “reading” anxiety in the humans around them as another indicator of threats in the area. They can detect fear, anxiety and anger in humans that no other human or animal can.
This ability to detect anxiety in humans is what allows the horse to “teach” veterans how they can self-manage their internal anxiety levels. When the veteran is working with their horse and has high anxiety, the horse is very jumpy because they perceive that a threat must be in the area. Jumpy, reactive horses are very hard to work with. So the veteran is encouraged to calm their anxiety using various techniques. Most veterans do not believe that they have any anxiety problem, and they may argue this point with human therapists or friends. However, a 1500 pound animal is hard to argue this with. So they may try different ways to calm themselves down. When they finally do perform a method that works, the horse IMMEDIATELY calms down. We believe that the veteran is working in a “blind” environment where they do not understand their own anxiety level nor what to do to self-manage it. So having the horse give immediate feedback to them 24/7 is of immeasurable value to the veteran.
This new ability to self-manage their anxiety provides the veteran with a huge boost in self-confidence. Understand that most of them have had their lives destroyed by this problem. They have lost their family and friends because of their outbursts. They are having trouble at work or have lost their jobs because of it. They know that they cannot function safely among other humans because of it, but do not know what to do about it. Therefore, most of them choose to isolate from society in their homes to avoid further destroying their lives. The gift that their horse gives them is allowing them to function successfully back in our society. Try to imagine the renewed self-confidence this gives them, because we see it in their eyes and behavior after only 4 or 6 lessons with their horse. Many veterans go back to school or jobs and pursue relationships after they have been successful with their horse. They virtually get their lives back again!
RESTORE SELF CONFIDENCE: Another gift that the horse gives these veterans is an ability to be assertive without being afraid or angry. Horses are very focused upon who is the leader. While in their herd, they spend ALL their time working on this. They want to know which horse is going to instantly make the decision on how to react to a threat just as soon as it is detected and have the rest of the herd follow this leadership. So they are continually testing all the other horses by trying to push each other around. This is very important to them, because time lost in the initial moments of facing a threat can mean life or death. They take this behavior into their relationship with every human that they work with. They will test the authority of the human by gently trying to push them around. A big portion of class time is spent teaching the veteran how they should move the horse around on the ground and establish the veteran’s leadership over the horse. This is commonly called Natural Horsemanship Training and Groundwork, and is a big part of most successful Veteran Horse Therapy programs. It provides the veteran with another boost in self-confidence after they can successfully move the horse around while on the ground.
OUR HEROES ARE HIDDEN AND LOST! As many as 500,000 veterans with Post Traumatic Stress are receiving no therapy whatsoever today. This is NOT because they “don’t feel like it”, but because they are unable to cope with the therapy. Many of these veterans have very fragile mental states. They are anxious about everything that they encounter. They suffer from nightmares every night, and consequently are exhausted from lack of sleep. They stay home to avoid the potential traumatic events that they could encounter out in our communities.
VA THERAPY TOO TRAUMATIC FOR VETERANS - ONLY 30% PARTICIPATE: The therapy for Post Traumatic Stress that is offered by the VA is reportedly very effective. However, it is also very traumatic to the veterans. One of the therapies requires the veteran to re-experience the trauma of their injury repeatedly. This allows the veteran to realize that the memory has no power to cause them harm, and they can process the memory and move on with their lives. However, only half of all veterans with Post Traumatic Stress agree to enter into therapy, and up to half of those that do enter therapy decide to drop out of the therapy according to the VA and a Rand Corporation study. The most recent data by the VA on Post Traumatic Stress treatment is from 2011 which says that they treated 475,000 veterans. This means that a half-million veterans are avoiding therapy because it is too traumatic for them to cope with!
VETERAN SUICIDE EPIDEMIC HAS EXISTED FOR YEARS: The US VA also tells us that 22 of these veterans commit suicide every day. EVERY DAY. 70% OF THESE VETS WERE OVER THE AGE OF 50. These vets have struggled with their pain a LONG TIME! and found NO HOPE that any one or any thing could help them.
HORSE THERAPY WORKS!: So far, the best that our government has been able to do for these hidden and lost heroes is to pass resolutions in Congress and appropriate millions of dollars to budgets. Yet the “statistics” do not change. Well, let us tell you what DOES WORK! HORSES! Yes, something as simple as a horse has repeatedly and consistently saved hundreds of veterans in our country. In 2009 we started a horse program for injured veterans, and in 5 short years this program grew to over 100 veterans a week being served. Many of these veterans were not pursuing therapy, or their therapy was ineffective for them. Horses provided the bridge that allowed them to truly reintegrate back into our society that they had fought so valiantly to defend! All of these veterans said that their horse was the very best therapy that they had ever received by a wide margin. Many of them shared that their horse had literally saved their life. When you save a person’s life, their gratitude tends to be great, and we have a large number of advocates for horses. The Veterans have spoken!
The reason that Debbi and Bob dedicated their lives to helping veterans with horse therapy is because the need is so great. The United States is facing a full blown epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress that will affect every community in many countries for decades to come. The United States currently has over 200,000 homeless veterans living on our streets as a result of the Viet Nam war according to the VA. This is absolutely shocking and totally unacceptable. But this is nothing compared to the oncoming crisis we face. These are our national heroes we are talking about, and their lives are worth saving, whether from suicide, homelessness or from hopelessness. Horses beyond number exist all around the USA and other countries with no job or purpose to them. It is so critical that veteran horse programs are started all over the world so that veterans everywhere can have access to this unique and powerful healing! Contact us to discover how horses are so effective with veterans.
Isaiah 35: ..then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy;.....they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.