I had no idea how gaining the trust of this big animal would give me faith in myself.
BW (Viet Nam Veteran)
In just one day, I’ve learned more about being a good parent than I could have ever imagined.
-CJ (Y-Haven Treatment Center Client)
There’s another way to lead besides power and rank. It’s called relationship.
-MW (Female Veteran from Iraq)
The following is a full report from a recent Warriors in Transition workshop:
A horsewoman and VA employee:
I enjoyed the Saturday session and believe the program to be worthwhile. In my studies of natural horsemanship, the focus is on the horse. However, with this program, it's all about the humans.
I would require an EPONA Certified Educator to be present along with a therapist whenever the workshop was presented to Veterans.
Veteran of Gulf War, Kosovo and former Drug Court Supervisor for Citrus County, FL. Current Pershing VA employee:
I came out there for anything that’s helpful. I want to help those coming behind me. This could grow into something really good. We’ve got lots of guys coming back; lots of enlistments running out. Dollar and cents: it will pay off on the other side; incarcerate them or help them function on the outside.
Coming back from the Gulf War, I got no response. Nothing. Culture shock. I was ashamed when I went to drill with the National Guard.
Returning from Kosovo, was a completely different experience; the Yellow Ribbon ceremony was required. There was help for LOD injury. [But] we couldn’t wait to get away from briefings; we were over briefed; finance and romance we called it. Now I can reach out for help but when I first came back, the last place I wanted to be was a VA hospital.
At least PTSD is recognized as a treatable condition.
I had extreme anger, lots of pressure, and no answers.
I was going to drink myself to death or shoot myself because I couldn’t make it stop.
I volunteered for Afghanistan but DUIs would not allow me to re-enlist. I was sober for 14 years; 15 years this month. I didn’t realize how big the problem was. Sobriety didn’t cure it. I had no background with PTSD; didn’t know about triggers. In 1997, I had a crisis; had no idea it was a condition from the ’92 Gulf War. Me and three other guys were attacked and stabbed in Germany by Muslim-looking guys. I almost died. I recently started PTSD treatment.
Horses got me to look inside of myself and headed in the right direction. I’ve had a lot of experience with this crap and it really helped take me out of myself. Cognitive behavioral therapy wasn’t going to work for me. It didn’t fit with my family time and work schedule.
I would like more than 2 days.
All Iraq and Vietnam vets are accepting; they recognize the feelings. Military experience; it’s the life afterwards that’s hard to deal with.
Spouse of a veteran and VA employee:
My husband was skeptical. Because of PTSD, he is slower to jump on board, less trusting, more self-conscious. He noticed a change the second day; started feeling more connected; benefitted from the smaller group. Really enjoyed it. A week would be beneficial because of having to break through a lot of barriers.
I would recommend it to anybody because it opened my eyes to self and social awareness. It was profound; social psychology all the way to quantum physics. Quantum physics tie-in is interesting.
My department (pharmacy) needs it because of emotional contagion; even before the critical conversation and intensive role-playing.
What stood out? Using horses to show non-verbal communication was an interesting concept. Wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t been there. [It’s] eye-opening how much communication we do that is non-verbal and the ways we retrieve information from the environment.
He is excited about being involved in an ongoing program.
I want to know more.
Please let us know when the next one is.
VA case managers were asked to provide feedback and submitted evaluations by e-mail:
What did you like most?
1. Learning techniques to use with veterans.
2. Working with the horses in a peaceful/relaxing setting helped me focus on myself and my inner thoughts. I learned another useful way to teach clients how to set boundaries for others.
What did you like least?
1. Dealing with my own anxieties.
2. It would be hard to identify a least favorite; I really enjoyed the entire workshop.
What surprised you?
2. I was surprised on how easy it was to develop trust with the horses and with others attending the workshop. This will be useful in teaching others as well.
Would you recommend this experience for others? Why or why not?
1. Yes. I believe it would be beneficial for mental health professions and veterans.
2. I would recommend this for others, not only based on my positive experience but also because of the responses received from other Veterans with PTSD where they reported an improved self-awareness and feeling comfortable in opening up.
Please give your overall evaluation of the session.
2. My overall evaluation of the workshop was very positive as it was effective in helping people reflect on themselves and not the events of their lives; it also helped people learn effective boundary setting and be comfortable in opening up and letting others into their lives.