HORSES CAN PROVIDE COPING SKILLS, HEALING, PRESENT-MOMENT PEACE & RESTORE TRUST FOR COMBAT VETERANS SUFFERING FROM PTSD-TBI-MST. WITHOUT HAVING TO TALK ABOUT IT!
SPRING REINS of LIFE is located in the heart of Central New Jersey (approx. mid way between NYC and Philly). Our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) services are provided by experienced/licensed, caring professionals along side a select herd of Horses that demonstrate a unique ability to help heal the human spirit. We are EAGALA certified. (EAGALA = Equine Growth and Learning Association, www.eagala.org, which is an international certification and training organization currently present in all 50 states and over 45 countries world-wide). Traditional talk therapy does not work for everyone, Spring Reins of Life is an alternative approach of therapeutic intervention that is proving to be effective with lasting results.
Spring Reins of Life (www.springreinsoflife.org) offers EAP programming for therapeutic intervention designed specifically to assist combat veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI and also MST. Veterans are asked to interact with the horses through a series of activities/exercises which promote “present moment” (and a sense of peace), restoring trust (first in themselves and then others), and finding personal coping skills/strategies to fit their unique needs to improve their interpersonal relationships and increase their chances of success beyond the cycle of war and its devastating effects.
OPERATION HORSE is a therapeutic intervention designed to work with groups of veterans (average group size is 6-8), some private sessions may be deemed necessary on a case by case basis. Participants will be screened to determine the most effective intervention for their needs. Groups will work with a licensed mental health professional, an equine specialist and horse(s) selected specifically for their capacity to work with individuals who are troubled or suffering in spirit.
***See video clip of NJVMA 2013 Winner of Service Animal Hall of Fame – STRAW – for her work with Veterans and Youth: http://youtu.be/pUUWzCaX0U0
Some signs of PTSD distress include but are not limited, to the following:
*Sleep disturbances, insomnia or nightmares *Feelings of anxiety, depression or worthlessness *Sudden panic attacks (constantly on guard or easily startled) *Difficulty concentrating, feeling of heaviness or “decision fatigue” *Overwhelming feelings of guilt *Loss of appetite, feeling numb or detached from others *Increased use of substances or other addictive behaviors *Having trouble processing grief *Sudden outbursts of irritability or anger (not able to control) *Relationship/marital distress And others…
During the interaction with the horses, the horses will be interacting in free-will (loose) with the participants in a safe enclosed space where we set about specific activities and exercises designed to open doors for thoughts, emotions and internal struggles.
The EAGALA Model facilitation team comprised of a licensed mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and horse(s) will work with the participants in the group to help them understand their emotions, their body language and the horses’ reactions to them. The horses offer chances for veterans to discover immediate consequences of mal-adaptive behavior, and explore and create strategies and behaviors which promote appropriate and positive responses. Outside the arena, the treatment team will guide the processing of issues that arise from interactions with the horses and help each teenager to incorporate a set of coping and resiliency skills that they can then take with them out into their real lives.
A subset of skills are addressed in each session, optimum results are achieved when veterans can participate in repeated visits of 4-10 sessions to constitute a completed program. However in working with Hospitalized Units from Lyons VA we have witnessed that even in a single session break-through moments happen in helping veterans to lower anxiety, become calm and peaceful, have reason to laugh and have fun, discover their own adaptability and coping skills.
At risk youth benefit from participating in a therapeutic modality that is non-stigmatizing and in a neutral environment. In this space they have the opportunity to confront issues without the pressure of gang hierarchy, society roles and expectations, and what? Once those barriers to learning are removed, these youth have the opportunity to reconcile the societal issues that have not allowed them to align themselves on a path toward being responsible adults.
Equine assisted psychotherapy and life skills learning is an intervention that is effective for trauma survivors and PTSD. Horses in a therapeutic program are particularly advantageous allies to elicit change. The size and power of the horse can be naturally intimidating to many people, and this alone can create a perfect opportunity to navigate fear/triggers and to re-establish trust and confidence which directly addresses the emotional difficulties that PTSD veterans face as they navigate reintegrating to civilian life. To accomplish a task with a horse in a completely neutral setting requires one to rely on individual skills thus building resiliency and confidence. It provides a powerful metaphor to draw from that may represent the relationship between their compromised “present moment”, handling triggers and identifying the effects of their own actions and/or psychological health. Intervention with horses provides opportunities for combat veterans to face fears, re-develop trust, find a place of peace/present moment which leads to new spaces of present moment and learning new coping skills to manage their PTSD/TBI which they can take home with them from the paddock and utilize to make healthier decisions in real life.
WHAT IS “OPERATION HORSE”?:
Equine Assisted Services for Military Veterans
Horses Offer Solid Ways to Come to Terms with Combat Trauma –
Without Asking You to Talk About It…
At Spring Reins of Life we are aware many stressors warriors face as they are returning from war as veterans. We recognize that the circumstances and effects of war and combat often changes people’s lives forever. We also believe that horses can help warriors redefine, or come to terms with their experience in a way that creates a personal path to follow in claiming one’s life back through the different set of lenses which now create perception.
Knowing that warriors have faced a myriad of combat traumas we understand and respect the space needed to come to terms with the internal struggle and challenges of post combat trauma, injury and loss. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is an intervention that provides a safe rehearsal space without any judgments to redefine thoughts and decisions about reconnecting to civilian life or returning to another tour of combat deployment.
The goal of “Operation Horse” is to assist warriors in developing coping skills to deal with traumatic experiences and foster wellness on their own terms. Combat veterans who are dealing with high level stressors post deployment as well as reintegration / retirement stages can benefit greatly from this program.
For many in the military, being away from home for long periods of time can cause adjustment problems at both home and work. In some cases warriors have completed repeated tours of duty and when on leave they cannot completely “be at home” because they know they are going to be deployed again. This is also true for the National Guard and Reserve troops who did not expect to be away for so long. Repetitive tours of duty, longer than normal deployments as well as retirement can surmount to high levels of stress and can manifest itself in different ways – increased divorce rates, spouse and child abuse, mental distress, substance abuse and maybe the most troubling is an increased rate of suicide.
WE CAN HELP!
Spring Reins of Life is an organization which provides therapeutic animal assisted intervention, utilizing horses to work as guides and partners in identifying potential problems and helping develop resolutions. We provide programs where warriors are teamed with an equine specialist, a licensed mental health professional and of course, our horses that are specifically selected for their ability and sensitivity to respond well with people. We operate as an EAGALA Model program which is solution focused, and based upon self discovery from the feedback, reactions and responses delivered by the horses. Participants learn about themselves by engaging in activities with the horses, and then by discussing metaphors, feelings, behaviors and patterns within their own context.
Horses respond to subtleties in our body language, and it is this focus on the non-verbals that can be very helpful. A person may “say” they feel a certain way, yet their body language reveals emotions of an entirely different scope. Horses sense this and demonstrate an ability to mirror and reflect a client’s emotional state. Veterans participating in our program while working with our horses, our team, and this model often learn more about themselves, allowing them to experience “break-throughs”. These break-throughs allow one to identify underlying emotional issues, or to see an individual or family issue with more clarity while out of the home environment.
At Spring Reins of Life we are familiar with the barriers and special issues that surround the military. In 2014 we became the first program in New Jersey to earn the “Military Services Provider Certification”. We have created ground based exercises with our horses which are meant to target the emotional distress associated with military duty and deployments. This allows veterans and the facilitators to “see” where the challenges are and find new solutions that work. This process quickly creates situations that highlight unhealthy patterns and personal strengths or weaknesses. At the same time, pathways for new and more solid ways to cope and communicate can be re-enacted.
“The time for action is now. The human and financial costs of un-addressed problems will rise dramatically over time. Our nation learned this lesson, at a tragic cost, in the years following the Vietnam War. Fully investing in prevention, early intervention, and effective treatment are responsibilities incumbent upon us as we endeavor to fulfill our obligation to our military service members.” ~Report of the Department of Defense, Task Force on Mental Health, June 2007
Benefits of working with horses include:
Fostering resilience –
Activities re-create situations where frustrations, stressors, and relationship problems can arise. Warriors learn to adapt, improvise, and overcome perceived stressors as effectively at home as they do on the battlefield.
Warriors must respond to the unpredictability and/or inability to “control” the horses and discover new ways to make relationships work. This offers real time solutions to issues that may seem overwhelming at the onset.
Warriors find their own solutions to proposed exercises through hands-on experience; they learn to rely on themselves and their team members. The horses are able to provide immediate feedback as to whether choices made are ones that will work as solutions for each individual client.
Action, not talk –
Principles of healthy transitions are applied in real time with the horses and can then provide parallels to be drawn upon by enacting or practicing healthier decision making processes. Without any verbal dialogue the horses offer numerous ways in which creative problem solving can take place, and it is different for each individual, which is one reason it is so effective.
*Currently EAGALA is collaborating with the DOD by providing a special “EAGALA Military Services Provider Certification”. This is a very involved process and Spring Reins of Life has sent in our application for approval in December 2013. Spring Reins of Life earned this certification in 2014 and was the first (and currently the only) program in New Jersey to have this award.
Express Times – Warren County, NJ (2014)
Verizon Fios TV (October 2013)
Verizon Fios Push Pause (2013)
PIX 11 News (September 2014)
(2 Live Segments – first is for At Risk Youth, second is for Veterans)
NASH-FM, Nash Matter with Kelly Ford
Family of a Vet Radio (2012)
Your support can help to put the pieces back together, it may even save lives! (average of 23 suicides per day with OIF/OEF veterans)…