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Horses for Heroes: Helping Disabled Veterans Heal

Disabled veterans have several programs at hand to assist them in coping with and recovering from their injuries or illnesses. While you might go the traditional route and engage in medical testing and treatment, it is important to remember that there are alternative options that may support your success in healing from your disability—both physically and emotionally. The use of horses in non-traditional therapy programs is not a new concept; however, the practice of calling upon the support of initiatives like Horses for Heroes and Central Kentucky Riding for Hope is becoming increasingly popular among veterans. This is particularly true for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as they tend to become withdrawn and the process of connecting with their horse and instructor may assist in reducing their risk of suicide and improving their ability to interact with others.

Matching the Right Horse to Each Veteran

Like all animals, horses have individual personalities. As such, the therapy programs that are encouraged by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are adept at matching the horses to veterans in an effort to balance their dispositions. For instance, a veteran who has PTSD and suffers from anxiety attacks would be best paired with a horse that is quiet.

But the matching of horse to rider does not end with personality compatibility. The instructors who are involved in this form of therapy also consider the interactions that veterans have with different horses and how they bond with them both in and out of the saddle. Additionally, the needs of veterans in terms of the kind of therapy they would most benefit from are taken into consideration.

Learning New Skills

When riding, disabled veterans are able to take their minds off of the challenges that they are facing while interacting with another living creature. By learning how to groom and saddle horses, as well as ride on different terrains and in different styles, you can quickly develop the skills you need to care for a horse. Once these tasks become second nature, you can relax into the soothing routine that you have created and learn to quell anxiety and other issues.

What Conditions Are Best Treated with Equine Therapy?

Disabled veterans can call upon this alternative therapy for a number of reasons; however, it is particularly well suited for individuals who have PTSD or other anxiety conditions. Additionally, this form of therapy is a great way for veterans who are having difficulty readjusting to civilian life to add a sense of control and relaxation to their lives that will help them find balance in their personal attempts to rebuild their civilian lifestyles while alleviating their stress.

If you are interested in learning more about how equine therapy can help you to heal from your disability, it is a wonderful idea to contact your local VA office to learn about programs in your area. If there are no VA-sponsored initiatives available, the representative you speak with should be able to provide you with information regarding local independent programs that may be of help.

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