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PTSD Professional Perspective: Horses for Heroes

Posted May 27 2011 6:37am

I loooooove horse back riding. When I was younger I rode every week. Now, I’m not so lucky to ride all the time but my love of horses, plus the freedom and connection you feel during a good ride remains.

It’s well known that equine therapy for symptoms of posttraumatic stress has terrific effects. A friend of mine actually is certified in equine therapy so I’ve heard a lot about its benefits. Today, Lee Ann Marrie, Program Director for Horses For Heroes, gives us an inside view.

Take a hero in need of healing, trained people with a heart to help, and combine those with the power of a horse and one has all the basic ingredients of a NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association) Horses for Heroes Program.

That is exactly what Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center in Guyton, Georgia, has done.  Having already been serving the community for four years by offering therapeutic riding to children and adults with disabilities, FETC decided last year that it was time to expand.  We have started a NARHA Horses for Heroes in addition to those we already serve.

The Horses for Heroes Program was designed by NARHA and dedicated to those that have been wounded, physically, psychologically, and/or emotionally. This program uses the power of a horse to help those who have given so much to find healing.

horse For the person in a wheelchair, it may be the sense of freedom and mobility while being atop a horse.  It may be the use of the muscles that can once again be stimulated because the horse’s stride mimics ours, therefore stimulating muscles that could otherwise never be used.

For the person that has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) even making to a riding lesson on time can be a challenge. However, goals are set and even the smallest improvement is celebrated as a victory.

For the one (which we know to be many) who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), being able to come out and simply groom a horse, spending time with people who care and take an interest, being able to form a bond with such an awesome creature as a horse, gives the individual the capability to turn off those things in his/her mind that may hold them captive.

For me, Lee Ann Marrie, FETC’s Horses for Heroes Program Director and NARHA Instructor in Training, it is my desire to help each hero that comes to us to achieve his/her individual goals.  It’s my heart’s desire to see the victories achieved in riding, grooming, etc spill over into their everyday life.  So that my veteran who is 100% PTSD, who in the beginning only had an hour’s peace when he began, can take and eventually over time can maintain that peace even when he’s away from the horse.

horse1 By changing their atmosphere, hopefully we can change some mind sets and thought patterns and maybe even help to set them free.  They fought for freedom before not for themselves, but unselfishly for us.  Now it is time for us to help our heroes fight for their own freedom– the freedom to be healed.

FETC offers this program at to our veterans at no charge to them.  We are working on trying to get the VA to have therapeutic riding included as a benefit.  This would allow the program to be compensated, as it is very costly to run and maintain a riding facility.  We are blessed by the generosity of those who believe in what we are doing.

However, we are small and looking to grow. Volunteers is another thing we tend to run short on.  However, using volunteers is how we run.  I encourage able bodied veterans, retired veterans and active-duty personnel to volunteer to become a volunteer.  Words cannot explain how blessed you will be for doing so.

For more information on FETC’s Horses for Heroes Program

Contact: Lee Ann Marrie

Visit our website at: www.faithetc.org

The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele .

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