When I look back at my first day at San Diego Therapeutic Horsemanship (SDTH) I was living in a bubble of ignorant bliss. I knew PTSD was something that affected our veterans, I just didn’t realize how deeply this brutal mental illness ran. Our vets may have left the physical battlefield behind, but once they returned home a new internal and somewhat invisible battle was raging.
The first time I saw one of our vets regress into a PTSD episode is something that will stay with me forever. I saw someone in absolute despair and desperate need of physical contact and grounding but couldn’t allow themselves to be comforted by another person. I then saw this same person connect with one of our therapy horses in such a primal way like it was the most natural thing in the world. The veteran gently embraced his specially trained program horse, wrapped his arms around his neck, and breathed into his mane until he was able to bring himself back into a peaceful state. His horse became his pillar of strength and grounded him when he needed him most. The skills we taught through the Freedom Reins program had allowed him to accept help and comfort from someone else, something that before then had been impossible. At the end of this particular veteran program rotation, this inspiring veteran hugged his instructor goodbye, actually hugged! He had gone from balking away from contact to initiating it. A huge stepping stone in his recovery and I was honored to be part of.
The volunteers at San Diego Therapeutic Horsemanship are some of the most generous and determined people I have had the pleasure of meeting. They selflessly commit time and resources each week to the San Diego Therapeutic Horsemanship Freedom Reins cause and strive to make a difference in our veterans lives. So far we have provided specially tailored services to over 60 veterans, and hope we can positively impact the lives of many more.
It is funny where life leads you. I’ve loved horses since I was a small girl and have always been aware of the power of them. The day i discovered San Diego Therapeutic Horsemanship was the day my life passion took on greater meaning.