New Harrison, Ark. program offers veterans therapy through taming horses
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Harrison’s new program provides therapy to veterans by taming wild horses.
Organized by Branded Equine-based Therapy Services in partnership with Camp Jack Veterans Center equestrian therapy specialist Lindsey Gabbard and wild horse trainer Fred Woehl lead the program.
“In this program with the mustangs, they’re not only learning about themselves, but they’re also changing the life of that horse, too,” said Gabbard. “To be able to provide these services is a blessing to me as well. To see their lives change and see them develop relationships with these horses.”
The program takes veterans through an eight week process in which they choose a wild mustang and tame it through building trust. The horses in the most recent cycle were obtained through an Oklahoma-based organization.
“So far, I’ve seen that Adam has had a reason to get up every morning. He has something to go do,” said Amber Mitchell, wife of a veteran who is also going through the program. “He’s bonding quite a bit with his horse. He comes home, and he talks about how much of a great morning he’s had. He’s looking forward to getting to spend more time with his horse every day. He’s feeling a lot of accomplishment.”
Mitchell’s husband served in Marine Corps infantry, spending most of his deployment in Iraq among firefights. She says the therapy has helped her family as a whole.
“He went through a lot. He’s a purple heart recipient,” she explained. Every day it’s been different, it’s a challenge, he has moments where he relives what he went through.”
Veterans going through the program say those around them have seen a change in purpose and perspective.
“According to my wife and my family, it’s changed my attitude and my mood,” said John DeWitt, a veteran who served at Camp Lejeune. “It has an ability to bring about a change and healing in places where you couldn’t get it before.”
Dewitt served in the Marine Corps during the 1970′s while stationed at Camp Lejeune. During his service, he contracted cancer due to toxic water contamination.
“This program is a miracle, and for them to provide it means so much to veterans and the community,” said DeWitt. “Therapy is a good thing. It’s not anything to be embarrassed or afraid of or ashamed of.”
The program was initially designed for veterans to go through the taming process, then find the horses permanent homes. Lindsey Gabbard with Branded Equine says most veterans in the program decide to keep and maintain their horses after going through the program.
“We provide sponsorships through the program for each horse and veteran,” said Gabbard. “Apart of that is the adoption if veterans decide to keep their horses. After just a week, a lot of veterans are looking for ways to bring their horses home so that they can continue that relationship and healing.”
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