They start out bareback, with a surcingle if needed, and with side walkers. Physical injuries, like amputations are in one group and TBI's are in another. Each of their individual needs are addressed. Those that gain skill and confidence move onto saddle work. All do ground work exercises. Larry said it is wonderful to see these people work with the horses gaining confidence as the horses do as directed. The ground and riding exercises are therapy, so they do try to challenge the patients. This aspect is hard on some therapeutic certified instructors because they box themselves into only the methods that got them certified. They are challenged in the process too, to adapt to the needs of their students. Mental exercises help with focus and trail rides and ring work help build core strength. They even worked to desensitize the horses to working dogs, so that those patients with dogs could have the security of having the dog next to the horse.
Some of the men and women come so stressed out, but leave relaxed and able to do things like read after their sessions. Families seem to find the effects last about 3 days. One guy would come and ask to groom the horses for hours when he was having a bad day. The exercise calmed him. Another guy was a double leg amputee and I think he even had some arm amputation too, but Larry said by the end of his time he was able to ride out on trail with great balance. Might even be him in the picture below. Inspiring right?
|Photo from Horse and Humans Research Foundation|
After seeing great results, a medical board was developed so that the improvements could begin to be documented and measured. Documentation could lead to better funding in the future. Plus it gives Equine Assisted programs a place to share and learn.
Larry connected with a lady from Israel who started therapeutic riding in that country and has her own program, INTRA, Israel National Therapeutic Riding Association.
|INTRA shirt front with Hebrew|
|Shirt back with her Son's design|
For the second year she came to stay at Peggy's and went to confer with the specialists connected to Larry's program. She is also working on getting documentation, but funding is hard. She would love to split the number of patients needed between the US and Israel. Then both sides would benefit and gain needed information. She has worked and developed her program over 20+ years with the help of her husband. Peggy looked her up and found a number of articles written about her and even a CNN program.
The value of the research would benefit the kids and other non military adults with injuries or diseases too. Therapeutic riding helps provide positive events and successes which helps patients heal and adapt to new realities. A quieter mind allows for new pathways to develop and may eventually help restore lost functions. Horses are sensitive and help caretakers read how a patient is on a particular day. Beyond the patients, caretakers have to be able to make sure the horses are happy too. Their healing powers are wonderful, but not at the expense of their hearts.
Even with the challenges, all the people involved around the world continue to work with patients and share the knowledge to better the equine assisted programs. With continued research hopefully funding will come so they can get the amount of sessions needed to not just maintain, but to improve too.
I love that horses are helping the men and women who try to keep our country safe. Horses have been my therapy for years, so it is great that others are seeing them in a new light.
Stay tuned for Part 2.