Rescue Horses and Veterans: A Good Fit

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On this Veterans’ Day, The Homes for Horses Coalition salutes both our veterans, and our members that are helping them to reclaim their lives, as they give new life to horses in need. The entire mission of member organization Horses4Heroes is focused on serving military heroes and their families. Through Operation Free Ride, thousands of military men, women and their children have registered for and/or received free horseback rides at host facilities from coast to coast. In addition to recreational programs for military families, Horses4Heroes offers therapeutic programs to veterans such as Back in the Saddle, a four-week empowerment workshop, and Unfinished Business, a program for veterans with PTSD and others who need to say “good-bye,” get over a loss or difficult situation. Wherever and whenever possible, Horses4Heroes uses rescue horses in these programs.

At Zuma’s Rescue Ranch, the ZEAL Program combines Animal Assisted Coaching and Experiential Learning to help veterans rebuild trust and confidence, as well as, refocus their attention to giving to the horses while healing their broken minds and bodies. “The skill developed working through life’s challenges with equine therapy partners is one that cannot compare to traditional educational models, said Jodi Messenich, Executive Director of Zuma’s. “The partnering with horses once destined for slaughter brings a level of compassion coupled with a desire to help another being. Those life lessons are creating compassionate hard working young men and women to lead our next generation.”

The Soldier Buddies program at Riding Star Ranch matches returning military soldiers and military veterans with at-risk youth between the ages of 12-22. The military veterans serve as positive role models and help instill morals, character, and essential life skills to their young "Buddies". Together, the Soldier Buddies care for a program horse including learning how to ride, and even how to drive, in the structured equine-assisted environment. The human benefits of the program include learning responsibility, compassion, self-esteem, trust and teamwork among other social and life skills. The horses involved in the program benefit from the socialization and retraining while receiving loving, hands-on care from the Soldier Buddies. These aspects are vital to the re-homing and adoption of the rescue horses.

Cindy Gendron, The Homes for Horses Coalition Coordinator, said, “These are just a few of our members that have witnessed the symbiotic relationship that rescue horses can have with humans that need healing. It’s an honor to observe how these and other members are helping veterans face unique challenges by allowing them to bond with horses facing their own.”

The Homes for Horses Coalition is supported by the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the Animal Welfare Institute and The Humane Society of the United States’, Jeannie Dodson Equine Protection Fund. It is dedicated to ending horse slaughter and other forms of equine abuse, while promoting growth, collaboration and professionalism in the equine rescue and protection community. Find us online at www.homesforhorses.org and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/HomesforHorses.