Seeing Grant Funding in Action: Connecting with Horses

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*Note from Diane: We are grateful to have another “Grant Funding in Action” story to share with you about the impact that grant funding is making in the lives of our team in their community. Check out some of our earlier Grant Funding in Action stories here to see how #grantswork is making a difference throughout the country.

 

“We tend to think that animals need us; but what if it’s the other way around? In the case of military veterans and the tragic reality of PTSD, healing may very well come in the guise of four legs and a whinny” (M. Breyer, 2018, http://bit.ly/2Egg0ed). A 2018 study published in Military Medical Research demonstrated that after three weeks of equine therapy, military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had a sixty-seven percent score decrease on the Military Version PTSD Checklist. After six weeks, there was an eighty-seven percent decrease in these scores. There are over 23 million military veterans dealing with PTSD in the USA, and I am married to one of them.

I previously wrote about my work with the Purple Mountain Institute Mindful Veterans Project in 2016 here. This small nonprofit is expanding to include equine therapy for military veterans and their families. Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Arizona Disabled Veteran Foundation, I was privileged to attend a Connecting with Horses program with my veteran husband this year. This Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) 4-week course does not involve horseback riding, but simply connecting with horses from the ground. The course covers (Erin Menut, Radiant Energy for Life):

  • Tapping into the body’s inherent wisdom, setting healthy boundaries, and embodying mutual respect
  • Communicating non-verbally with the horses and expanding intuition
  • Practicing how to use assertiveness without aggression, while maintaining connection – a wonderful skill for relationships!
  • Embodying leadership through relationship

Strategies learned in this course which transfer into daily relationships with people include:

  • Using body scans to tune into your own body, the horse, and others
  • “Rock back and sigh” to let the horse know you recognize his boundaries and to practice trust, respect and calmness with all beings
  • Heart breathing-connecting with the horse and others through breath and visualization
  • Realizing your own proximity response and those of others to set appropriate boundaries
  • Assertiveness minus aggression including visualization and accomplishing goals together

My husband seems to be a natural horse whisperer and connected incredibly well with horses in this course. One horse actually approached him immediately and placed her head close, actually touching, as if to say “It’s okay. I understand your pain and can help you with that.” It was a beautiful, heartwarming moment. My husband says he can feel his blood pressure lower and such a sense of peace with horses that all seems right again in his world.

As an animal lover, I hate using whips, riding crops or any kind of violent aggression with horses. I learned to practice assertiveness without aggression when working with horses and realized how much I need to practice this with people. As a perfectionist, I learned to take a step back and realize that all my interactions with horses, people and projects don’t always have to be the perfect result I envision in my head. While high expectations are important, it is equally critical to breathe, learn from what we self-identify as “failures”, and listen to the wisdom of horses, who are simply and always in the present moment. I stay excited and dedicated to assisting veterans with finding much deserved peace and continuing to learn from horses myself.

 

Do you have a #grantswork story about the impact grant funding has made in your life or your community? We’d love to hear! Share them in the comments below, via social media, or drop us an email to share your story (info @dhleonardconsulting.com).

1 Comment

  1. Erin Menut March 20, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    It was such an honor and a pleasure to host Judy and Paul as part of the Connecting with Horses program. In one of the activities we practiced, Paul groomed my little horse Whimsical while I held her, and we could all feel the special connection he made with her through breath, calm presence, and gentle touch. When he arrived back at the ranch the following week, she greeted him with a delighted whinny. You can see her standing behind him in the picture above, as if to say, “Let’s do it again!” Programs like this make a clear and visible difference in the lives of veterans and their families, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve this much-deserving population in the future.

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