“Hangin’ with the Horses” gives military vets comfort and healing
Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” After the end of World War I, the former cavalryman and then-secretary of state for war, arranged to return as many of the one million-plus horses to the United Kingdom as possible. They had been stranded since the signing of the armistice and were in danger of starvation and disease. Some had even been sold to French and Belgian butchers.
Just as Churchill helped the war horses, so horses are now helping soldiers returning from war. Whether they came home in the 1970s from the jungles of Vietnam or can still hear the echoes of gunfire from Afghanistan, there’s something about the gentle giants that can quiet the nightmares in the minds of these men.
“Horses are honest...they don’t have egos like we do,” says Ginger Brown of the Eagles Rest Ranch. “They respond very honestly and openly. It’s almost as if they know if it’s a rough trainer coming in to yank them around or if it’s an autistic kid—or if it’s someone that’s hurting.”
Brown is involved with “Spirit Horses for Veterans,” a therapeutic riding program designed to help veterans. Active therapy is not offered unless the veteran specifically requests it. Brown says the primary goal of the program is just to let the guys bond with the horses, which is exactly what they do on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.
“On those particular days, we don’t do horseback riding,” explains Brown. “The veterans or their families can schedule days to come back and ride. But on the ‘Hangin’ with the Horses’ days, they literally just hang with the horses.” Eugene Taylor, a Vietnam vet, enjoys the quiet time he can spend with horses. On the day The Pulse visited, he was grooming Tinker Bell, a calm, gentle horse that is often used to carry autistic children. He says the act of providing care to the horses fulfills a need for him and others like him.
The program isn’t only helping with the mental scars of war, but the physical ones as well. Brown and others have found that the same exercises, such as figure eights and serpentine riding, not only help those with autism, but are showing surprising results in those with Traumatic Brain Injury.
This Sunday, April 28, Eagle Rest Ranch will hold their Second Annual Veteran’s Appreciation Day. From noon until 6 p.m. veterans and their families are invited out to enjoy a day of fun with supervised riding, fishing and even a hayride.
Free lunch will be provided and Outdoor Chattanooga will be providing kayaks so that families can take a paddle on the lake. There will also be a ceremonial tree planing in honor of the founder of the local Spirit Horses program, Pat Townley, who passed away in February.
Eagle Rest Ranch is located in Flintstone, Georgia. Any veteran or family member wishing to attend this weekend’s festivities should call Ginger Brown at (423) 421-3205 and make reservations.