“Since completing my tour of duty I have undergone several venues of treatment, attempting to process what I had endured during service to my country. This included civilian therapy, therapy from the VA and its affiliated clinics, the Veterans Foundation, all of which involved medication, talking, exercise, breathing techniques, and even dietary modification. Of all the various therapies which I have received to date, I must honestly say that the sessions involving therapeutic horsemanship have been by far the most beneficial, the most healing and the most successful in alleviating my pain in terms of my PTSD, than all other counseling/therapy sessions received thus far.
I honestly believe that there exists something within the spirit of a horse which calls out in a voice of healing and of hope; concepts which are both unexplainable and incomprehensible; and concepts which I never would have imagined finding myself trying to understand being a hardened combat medic for the Marine Corps.
It may be the site’s pristine setting: a ranch complete with water fountains, whispering breezes and distant green hills. It may be the mere presence of animals which tend to have a lasting calming effect in and of itself. Or it may be the horses, ponies, donkeys, and even cats and dogs and birds along with the flowers and the trees. It may simply be my imagination or my strong desire to heal, but whatever the causative factors contributing to my momentary glimpses of respite and relief, bottom line, to be blunt: this program has literally kept me from taking my own life. Suicide, as you are well aware, is a voice that haunts all my brothers and sisters who have served and have tried to resume their lives in a normal capacity when we come home. It is a voice that I would like to see silenced forever.
This ranch and its programs have a history, a sense of purpose and high moral content. It is truly a place of healing and of hope, where the staff’s only desire is to try and alleviate some of the pain I have endured and teach me a better way to process that pain.”
-Blade C. Anthony (HM3)(8404)(FMF)
“My name is Dan. I am a U.S. Navy veteran. I suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) resulting from traumatic experiences both in and out of the Navy. At 15, my father collapsed in front of me and died in my arms. While serving in the Navy, I was exposed to extreme trauma and death, experiences that continue to haunt me. As a result of these traumas, I sought help from the VA, which placed me in a Residential treatment program called the Domicilary. This program consists of classes, and group sessions, in addition to my individual therapy. Part of my recovery plan includes recreation activities sponsored by the VA, one of which is the Equine Therapy program. This program introduced me to Saddles for Soldiers, who provides therapy to Veterans through horses.
Anger is one of the many issues I must deal with. When I am on the horse, “ her name is Honey”, I am able to put my issues behind me for a time, and to just experience the pure love of a horse.
While on an outing, I had one of the most profound experiences of my life. I have a step-son who is handicapped and suffers from Dushenes Muscular Dystrophy, and so have become comfortable working with people who have disabilities. While I was at Saddles for Soldiers, a handicapped Veteran named Bob arrived and Johnny, the owner asked me if I would work with Bob. Bob and I started talking, sharing stories and bonding in ways that only Veterans can, when speaking to other veterans. Bob had, had a stroke and was paralyzed on his left side.
A miniature horse was led out, and I helped Bob to groom the horse, and the smile that came to his face was amazing. Then Honey, my favorite horse was led out and Bob fell in love with her as I have. We swapped horse and war stories for some time. The joy that Bob so clearly experienced brought joy to me as well, and for a couple of hours I was able to forget my own troubles. There is a power in love, and there is no more powerful love than that of an animal. Saddles for Soldiers does more than just put you in a saddle. They give that man a chance to experience peace and joy, in a life that is lacking those qualities. It allows veterans to relieve stress, and forget their troubles for a while. It has been one of the most important therapeutic experiences for me, and I hope to get more veterans involved with this very important program.
I feel that Saddles for Soldiers has saved my life, and helped give me a new outlook on life and I thank Johnny, Susan, Amy and all the supporting staff for their caring attention to me, and all the other veterans who they help.”
-Daniel Rule, U.S. Navy Veteran