Veterans with PTSD

Chapter 6
The Walking Wounded—Horses For Heroes

As time went on, it became apparent to the therapists at Horses for Heroes that the horse-human connection was also having a dramatic impact in healing the emotional wounds of many of the soldiers. Not only was it helping them overcome depression and anxiety but, to everyone’s surprise, it was having a profound therapeutic effect on soldiers who suffered from PTSD. The natural ability of a horse to accept, without judgment, anyone, including a soldier who had seen or done horrific things and, by so doing, express compassion and benevolent acknowledgement was another extraordinary gift that horses were capable of giving to humans.

Iraq war veteran Sergeant Fran Kirkson said: “The hardest part of war isn’t being there, it’s the coming home. You’re not the same person. When I came home, I felt like everyone wanted something from me—my friends, my family. They wanted me to spend time with them; they wanted me to be happy. They wanted me to help them feel okay about me. They meant well, but they didn’t understand. I just wanted to be alone—that’s all I could handle.”

“War kills your sense of trust. I didn’t know if somebody wanted to be with me to make me feel good or to make themselves feel good. My horse Rainbow didn’t know me from before the war. All she knew was what she saw when we met. She didn’t want anything from me, didn’t expect anything. I didn’t have to talk about my feelings; I could just feel them, and she was okay with it. She opened me up. When I realized she had started to trust me, it was the first time since I had come home from the war that I felt like me, like I had gotten my old self back.”

The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit veterans’ service organization that offers a variety of programs, services, and events for wounded veterans of all military actions that followed the events of September 11, 2001. As of August 2013, WWP has helped more than thirty-five thousand men and women find some program of help and recovery with more added every year. The WWP website states, “There are no dues here—those were paid by wearing the uniform and on the battlefield.” The organization’s motto is: “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.” (For more information about the Wounded Warrior Project, see Resources on this website.)