Celebrating Heroes

Healers 4 Heroes: Equine Therapy for Veterans

Ever since serving in the military, Ryan has struggled with sleep issues, pain issues, and sometimes debilitating anxiety. His story isn’t unique, as many of the men and women who serve this country come home to discover that their experiences make civilian life difficult to endure. Whether they suffer from PTSD, pain from injuries they got in battle, or any other mental and physical health issues, many of our veterans are suffering.

This is an issue that went unrecognized for years. Veterans of Vietnam were often depicted negatively in the media because the issues that they came home with were not always recognized by mainstream society. Luckily the struggles that sometimes accompany the transition to civilian life after serving in a war zone are becoming recognized and respected incrementally. As we learn about the negative effects of war, we are also discovering ways to treat it and make these veterans’ lives better.

Ryan ran the gamut with his struggles. He needed extensive pain and anxiety medication just to get through his daily activities. When he moved across the country, the new doctors he was working with labeled him as an addict because the medication that he needed to get through each day was at a level that raised red flags. He suffered daily and began to question whether he would ever be able to get the help he really needed.

But then he moved back to Texas and started working with Healers 4 Heroes.

“Now I own a horse and I’m a freagin’ cowboy. My entire five-year-old checklist is complete,” boasted Ryan.

There are three animals that are recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as service animals: dogs, pigs, and horses. K-9 programs have proliferated in the past several years, but there aren’t a lot of programs for veterans (or others struggling with mental or physical health issues) that utilize therapy from the other recognized animals. This could be because it is easier to care for a dog than it is to care for a pig or a horse, but that doesn’t mean that the healing qualities offered by these other four-legged friends should be overlooked.

These are two ponies we rescued from the kill pen. Samantha StrangeSamantha and Lisa Rollins ElliottLisa are working with them so veterans using wheel chairs can groom and love on. It takes a lot to start a therapy program. Some behind the scenes work. This is Anna T and Little Joe

Posted by 4 – Legged Healers for Heroes on Friday, August 17, 2018

Through love and companionship, Ryan has a dog who has helped him immensely with his struggles. When he found out about Healers 4 Heroes, however, he was intrigued: “I wanted to ride, and I went for some group lessons, but they really weren’t working for me. When I found out that I could ride for free through Healers 4 Heroes because I was a veteran, I figured it was worth a try.”

Ryan felt a difference after the first day. “I was more centered and calm. I could sleep. I now need less pain medication and I have almost zero anxiety.”

Working with horses did something for Ryan that years of medication and other forms of treatment had never been able to quite fix. Petting, brushing, and connecting with the horses created a sense of peace and calm in his life that he previously believed were out of reach for him.

Ryan attests, “It’s darn near miraculous. I wish I had known about this years ago.”

Healers 4 Heroes was started by Rosie Aschenbrenner. She had been working on ranches for years and became fed up with the fact that there weren’t any viable equine therapy programs for veterans and other men and women who had served the country in various roles. Her charity doesn’t just serve veterans, they work with all types of first responders as well. Whether a hero is struggling with amputation, PTSD, anxiety, or any other of a number of issues that plague the men and women who serve our country, Healers 4 Heroes offers equine therapy to help.

Healers 4 Heroes is a brand-new program, founded in August of 2018, and they need recognition and support right now. We all know that the men and women who serve this country deserve every opportunity they can get to thrive. If equine therapy can provide that opportunity for them, then it is a program that deserves to succeed.

(All photos and video given with permission via the Healers 4 Heroes Facebook page.)

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Chloe Longstreet

Chloe Longstreet comes from a long line of veterans on both sides of her family who have served in all of the different branches of the military. She is very supportive of those who have served the country, and passionate about ensuring veterans have access to the benefits and resources they deserve. She graduated from Columbia University in 2012 with a degree in political science and anthropology. Currently, she is devoted to helping people tell their stories and preserve their legacies by helping them write, edit, and publish their memoirs through her company, Awen Books and More.

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