Veterans return from the battlefield with wounds seen and unseen. Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), brain injury, paralysis, or loss of limb. Physical handicap and emotional withdrawal can prevent veterans – and their families – from “moving on” and living life fully.
Instructors, physicians, therapists and volunteers direct the veterans and service members in the development of horseback riding and horse grooming/care skills. For the Wounded Warrior, the result is increased strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, confidence and trust. These activities are proven to promote healing of physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The horse, perhaps like no other animal, is innately suited to re-establishing a veteran’s connection to the day-to-day world. Whether it’s an aged mare needing love and attention or a healthy stallion that will challenge the veteran mentally and physically, a horse requires a connection with its caretaker/rider. And in forging that attachment, the horse helps re-connect the veteran to his family, community, and world.
Until the 20th century, the horse served man in industry, in agriculture…and in war. The bond between horse and soldier was deep, reverent, and often emotional. Rekindling – recreating, even – that long-broken bond between soldier and horse can heal our nation’s wounded veterans – and is a prime goal of the Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program (WWEP).
“There is just something about horses.”
Here is a picture of Bridget Kroger working with an Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer. He had previously worked with Bridget at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
When he first came out to visit, he mentioned he felt absolutely scared just chatting about riding horses. They then went to the barn and Bridget showed him the basics. In just 30 minutes he was sitting bareback! She led him out to the arena and after a few minutes he started “letting things go.”
They later when on a 30 minute trail ride. By the end of the day, he looked like he had been riding all his life! He agreed: “There is just something about horses.”