Charity of the Week: Horses Helping Heroes Project

FOUR LEGGED THERAPY
The HORSES HELPING HEROES PROJECT is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that uses the horse as a therapeutic modality for veterans with special needs and disabilities. Our mission is to empower military and first-responder veterans to face the challenges of mental, emotional and physical wounds and to assist them in creating active, healthier and more fulfilling lives through equine-assisted activities and therapies.
Founded in 2010, the program began as a traditional therapeutic riding program. Today, it has evolved to be primarily a ground work program as it is the hands-on work and bonding with their horse that has proven to be the most therapeutic for the veteran.
Using a private facility not open to the public, each veteran is given an opportunity to work through their issues in complete privacy and with the support of trained volunteer staff and fellow military personnel. On the first day of class, each veteran is assigned to a horse and works with that horse for the duration of the 8-week session. With a goal to educate our participants and to give them the necessary tools to develop their horsemanship skills, we begin each class with a lecture or presentation on a horse-related topic.  Some of the topics from the spring 2013 sessions included:  safety around horses; horse body language; fun facts about horses; common horse and human body parts; and, application of the Masterson Method -Beyond Horse Massage. 
With a mission to empower the veterans, we provide progressively more challenging tasks for the veteran/horse team to accomplish during the session. For the novice, this may start with simple leading of the horse through a basic obstacle course and culminate in an in-hand trail class competition. For the more seasoned veteran it may mean the team works at liberty negotiating the obstacle course or the veteran learns how to free lunge his horse in a field. Regardless of the activity, as the veteran/horse team develops, we see an increase in relaxation, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
The horses though are the real stars of the program. The majority of the program horses are Morgans. 
We find their size is less intimidating, they are very people oriented and they have a high level of curiosity.  Their willingness to be handled by a wide variety of individuals with vastly different physical capabilities and communications skills is amazing to watch. You can almost hear their wheels grinding as they try to figure out what the veteran wants them to do. If Plan A doesn’t work, invariably they come through for their veteran when Plan B is applied.

We do not charge for our services and receive no federal or state support. We fund this program through public donations, corporate sponsors, grants, fundraising efforts and the generosity of ACTHA members who host rides to support the HORSES HELPING HEROES PROJECT.  We thank you for helping us help veterans. For more information, please visit our website  www.horseshelpingheroesproject.com.

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