Friday, July 31, 2009

Horses for heroes


FROM NBC Nightly news
Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009 10:38 AM by Sam Singal

By Lauren Selsky, NBC News desk assistant

As a student of history, I’ve studied countless battles where horses were used to wage war. Little did I know that they’re now being used to heal our soldiers after they come back from war.

I was intrigued when I first read about the Horses for Heroes program at the Maryland Therapeutic Riding center. The non-profit organization offers free equine therapy to veterans and active duty soldiers suffering from both physical and psychological wounds of war. I’d always thought equine therapy was for people with physical disabilities. Never did I think these animals could have such an effect on people suffering from psychological disabilities.

Shortly after arriving at MTR, Norah O’Donnell, producer Adam Verdugo, and I were introduced to the soldiers. They were cordial. A quick handshake and they headed to the barn. Thirty minutes later they emerged with the horses. There was a noticeable difference in their demeanor. Shoulders straightened, faces lit up, and they walked with an air of confidence.

In fact, everyone’s faces lit up when the horses were around – including our crew’s. As one of the soldiers said to me, “It’s hard NOT to smile when the horses are out.” That became obvious as the soldiers interacted with the horses on the way to the arena. Lots of smiles, hugs, and petting took place along the way.

It was uplifting to see the connection between the horses and the soldiers. Before we left, I asked Specialist Robert Rodriguez if he was sad to leave. His answer? “No, I’ll be back tomorrow.” Rodriguez, along with several of the other soldiers, plan to continue coming to the center…this time as volunteers.

To find out more about equine therapy and the Horses for Heroes program at the Maryland Therapeutic Riding center, please visit Horses That Heal

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