The men and women who make the commitment to serve our country are some of the bravest humans on earth. To willingly sign up for duty with a branch of the armed forces knowing you very well could be sent to a war zone on the other side of the planet takes a level of guts I do not have. With that said, the scars of battle, both physically and mentally, can last for years after their time on the battlefield even for the toughest individuals. Fortunately, there are many programs available for those who are suffering from physical wounds, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health challenges to help them navigate and cope with those unfortunate by-products of combat. That includes a new program on Evansville's west side that's using horses to help veterans try to live as normal of a life as possible.

Hoof Beats Therapeutic Riding Center Offering Equine Assisted Therapy for Veterans

human hand is caressing horse muzzle

Hoof Beats Therapeutic Riding Center is a non-profit organization offering Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) to local Veterans. We spoke with the organization's president, Tracy Conner along with Treasurer / Trainer, Rachelle Camp earlier this week to talk about why they started the program, what types of services it offers, and why horses are great animals for people suffering from mental health challenges.

Tell us about hoof beats and why you started it So several years ago.

Tracy: I was talking with a friend of mine who is a nurse who also works at the V.A. and who also is a veteran. And, we were talking about our barn and he suggested that we look into having a program for veterans, a riding program. We do riding at our house and so we thought about that for a while, and then the pandemic came and nothing really came of anything, but we started thinking about it and we decided that we have the facility and we have therapy-appropriate horses. So, we were going to go ahead and get started on that and we're ready to open up and we're ready to start taking participants.

What is it about horse riding that is a therapeutic benefit for some of these veterans?

Horses are very calming. They can help with anxiety...veterans that have PTSD and depression, and they can even help with some pain syndromes. Horses help to build trust and they feed off of you. You can pet a horse and it will sense your heartbeat from several feet away and it helps you to calm down and it helps you to develop trust with that horse. A lot of times that's just really what the veterans need. It's also just a break. Sometimes there's not even any riding or anything involved. People will not miss their program session because just being there is so helpful to just to be with the horse and pet it or brush it or whatever and [it's] just very nice.

If there is a veteran or someone who knows a veteran that may benefit from using this service, how do they get ahold of you guys to sign up?

Rachelle: They're going to contact us directly. They do not have to go through their medical provider or the V.A. That's the best thing about this service is that it's also free to the veterans so they contact us directly through our phone number. It's 812-430-1533.

You can also learn more about the program through the Hoof Beats Therapeutic Riding Center website, or through their Facebook page where you can message them with any questions.

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