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Gypsy Horse On-The-Ground Equine Therapy - It Just Works
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Gypsy Horse gelding, Lance, giving back.
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When you think of equine therapy you perhaps think of the many wonderful horse riding programs both in Texas and across the U.S. These programs generally cater to the physical needs of their clients. Surmounters of Texas, Inc. a 501(c)3 non-profit, in Burleson, just South of Fort Worth, however caters to the mental health needs of our military - veterans, active, reserves, retired and their families. In particular, the areas worked with include PTSD, traumatic brain injury, stress/anxiety, reintegration issues, substance abuse, family issues, and suicide prevention. The suicide rate among veterans is staggering. It is conservatively reported to be more than 22 per day. Nearly one in five suicides nationally is a veteran even though veterans make up about 10% of the U.S. population. Government agencies are often overwhelmed. Civilian community groups can and should step up to provide for our veterans and their families.
There is a science behind equine therapy on-the-ground, not riding, used by Surmounters of Texas, Inc. Counselors aren't allowed to touch their patients. But touch therapy with horses, dogs, and other therapy animals releases feel-good chemicals in the brain such as Endorphins, Oxytocin, and Dopamine. These chemicals help provide a calming effect. Ask any horse owner how they feel around their horses and you will have this confirmed anecdotally. This calming effect works for PTSD and the other mental health issues listed above. Additionally, horses function as living biofeedback machines. You have seen animals in the wild and their hyper-vigilance watching for predators. Only those with this skill survived so it is now instinct. If you walk up to a horse with aggressive body language or a bad attitude there is a good chance that horse will not engage with you and will walk or run away. You will only be invited to join the herd if you are calm and stress free. This provides instant feedback to the veterans about the behavior they are exhibiting. Adjust your thinking or the horses will let you know.
At Surmounters we use multiple methods of therapy. We use Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, and others for some of our sessions. Other sessions we use Peer-to-Peer Support as an opportunity for veterans to engage each other and share experiences, both past and present. The Gypsy Horses provide a tool as an avenue to begin these conversations. Sessions can include learning basic horsemanship, grooming, learning tricks, harnessing a driving horse and driving, learning about foal handling, working with young stock through obstacles, using a rope halter and more. This is referred to as "Experiential Modality" and is highly successful in allowing veterans to develop relationships with the horses and each other. Veterans have reported such phrases as "saved my life"," reduced my prescribed medications and now feel like a human being again", "there is a peace and calmness here that is indescribable", "first time since being home from Iraq that my mind was clear", " gone from withdrawn and quiet to talkative and engaging", "taught me to love life again". Little more can be said about the success of the program with the Gypsy Horses and on the ground.
The final icing on the cake will be the arrival of the several 2015 Gypsy Horse foals in April. The veterans can hardly wait for this opportunity to bond with newborn foals as it is believed this is the only equine therapy program providing this opportunity. This program is run by Gypsy Horse breeder for over nine years, Linda Brown, at A Wizards Spell Ranch. If you would like more info on purchasing World Show Champion Gypsy Horses, please go to www.GypsyHorsesInTexas.com. For information on our equine therapy program, go to www.Facebook.com/Surmounters and www.Surmounters.com.