Animal therapy helps veterans to heal

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MENDON, N.Y. – The EquiCenter is a therapeutic horse-riding farm is off Route 65. The horse Sierra is one of the wild mustangs rounded up in Wyoming to control the herd, and delivered here to work with veterans.

Katherine Hatch, Co-Director EquiCenter: “They all come to us with symptoms, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, fear which mirrors those of veterans with post-traumatic stress.”

The horses are selected to match with veterans. They’ll spend six days a week with each other over two to three years. They start with a horse that can’t be handled and finish with a horse that goes nose to nose.

Berkeley Brean: “And bringing them together does what?”

Hatch: “We’ve had over 80 veterans go through this program, and all of them will tell you that it’s provided them healing and a sense of purpose”

Brean: “The mustangs, newly arrived here and in this pen, they all have a tag around their neck, which is the number they got when they were rounded up. Once they get to the point where they can he haltered, like a leash, the veteran who worked with the horse the longest gets to remove that tag and then name the horse.”

Hatch: “And typically they’ll be named with names that mean something to the veteran. We have North Star, Tango, Beacon, all with military connotations.”

Hatch: The mustang is sort of iconic and part of this country’s heritage. And they partner [with] veterans who are here to keep America safe. So, I think that’s the connection I see today and frankly every day.”

When the mustang is gentled, as they call it, it gets adopted, sometimes by a veteran.           

EquiCenter is looking for more horse trainers. They have 175 therapeutic riding lessons a week, and they have 175 people on a waiting list to ride.

Learn more here.