Equine Therapy for Disabled Veterans
The Veteran Experience
Blackhorse 4 Heroes was developed to improve the veteran experience by understanding the various conditions the soldier experiences in combat. We teach these different facets to veterans of limited function during our therapy sessions. The recovery is further encouraged with the unique discipline of driven equine sport. This interaction rewards in ways that cannot otherwise be achieved.
One of the core facets of the veteran experience is the inability to communicate with once familiar people, places and things. We find that the extraordinary events experienced in the combat theater, over a long period of time actually become ordinary. This provides a library of thoughts that are inappropriate to family and friends. If you consider that we use this library of thoughts to formulate sentences, and if those thoughts are inappropriate to the audience, then communication is inhibited. This results in stress from the ability to be social. Since the condition limits interaction, is also limits experiences and the mental library that is needed to be developed to interact again. Without stimulation in the non-combat environment, the condition will not improve and in some cases may degrade into depression or other deviant behavior.
Honor is like love, it is a human emotion that, unless experienced, cannot be appreciated.
Brad Bertele, President Blackhorse 4 Heroes
Horses communicate with body language which provides a calm, non-judgmental platform for veterans to trust and communicate with them through touch and feel. While many veterans may be physically impaired, our program includes a carriage adapted to accept a wheelchair. And those with PTSD learn to reduce their stress and relax with the physical exercise. Their problems seem to disappear when they’re driving a carriage by communicating with the horse. Both able-bodied and disabled folks become equals with reins in their hands.
But why horses?
Equine therapy at Blackhorse 4 Heroes uses horses for interaction and trust building by communicating with body language. Horses are prey animals and as such very attentive to a person’s body language. Simple tasks such as grooming a horse provides nearly instant social interaction that cannot be done in normal verbal methods for the veteran. You can watch a veteran pick up a brush and move to the horse; the horse reacts with caution; the soldier slows his actions to calm and assure the animal. Once the grooming commences the horse can be seen relaxing, and in fact trusting the veteran. In minutes you can see the veteran relax as the stress from not being allowed social interaction is removed. This results in a dramatic reduction in stress and allows the veteran to have confidence to re-connect with family and friends.
What makes the driving experience even more rewarding is the team work between driven horse and the driver. In driving there is a much greater demand for equality between equine and human. This mutual respect is a great teacher of healing.