LISTENING HORSE VETERANS HELPING VETERANS PROGRAM
Alex, long time rider with our PATH Intl. Equine Services for Heroes program, came to us with little horse experience. Now he and program director Gus Jolley spend hours riding together, along with their service dogs Otie and Abigail. Here Alex and his friend Promise get a good view of Albuquerque from 9000 feet up in the Manzana Mountains. (Well, maybe Promise is more interested in what’s on the ground.) Be sure to read Alex’s testimonial about the program in the “Testimonials” tab.
Invitation to Ride
We are a member center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). Our PATH Intl. program is an equine therapy program that is free to wounded military personnel. “Our military personnel have offered the ultimate sacrifice for their country and many of them have paid dearly. They don’t need to pay any more,” says Gus Jolley, director & PATH Intl. certified instructor at Listening Horse. “Our volunteers have found a way to combine their understanding of what horses give to people with their respect and appreciation for veterans and active military and what they give to our country.”
Three generations of vets keep quarter horse Doc busy. WWII vet Jack is in the stirrups while Iraq vet Travis lends a hand. Gus, Vietnam era vet, walks along on the far side.
The program offers equine-assisted therapy that includes groundwork, bonding, and riding within the supportive community of veterans, active military, and other volunteers. Besides being great outdoor exercise, riding helps build overall strength, improve gait, flexibility, core strength and balance. It also helps rebuild confidence and self-esteem and can help ease the period of readjustment many experience when returning to civilian life. The program works well alone or in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
The Program is based on a success of pilot programs at Ft. Hood in Texas and Ft. Myer in Virginia, where the United States Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment Caisson Platoon is headquarted. In 2007, the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) began working with Army personnel to develop Horses for Heroes. PATH Intl. is the premier organization that trains instructors to work with people of all ages who have physical or psychological challenges.
About the Lessons
Lessons being with grooming, tacking and groundwork, then riding. Groundwork is an intense communication that establishes the human as the leader and establishes a bond between horse and rider. It is based on hierarchy of the herd and teaches the horse to trust the rider and look to him or her for instruction and safety. Each lesson begins with horse and rider, both on the ground, completing exercises that bond the two together. This helps the rider improve focus for himself and the horse and to practice a form of subtle communication that is based on sensitivity and patience. This can be an important skill, especially for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Each week the lesson starts with groundwork and bonding exercises. As the weeks progress, the rider will learn more about communicating with the horse and basic horsemanship and equitation (riding skills). The instructors’ weekly lesson plans will be adjusted to best support the individual riders’ specific need and progress. Each rider will receive plenty of one-on-one time with the instructor, especially in the early sessions. Upon completion of the 8-week session, riders are more than welcome to start another session, participate in trial rides, and continue their journey and new-found relationship with the horse. As riders progress, they can also choose to increase their riding skills and give back to others by working with other veterans, active military or riders participating in Listening Horse.
You do not need to have previous experience with horses to benefit from this program. For many of our participants this has been their first exposure to horses. All you need is a sense of adventure, a sense of humor, and a sense of wonder for what these magnificent animals provide to the human soul.