Memorial Day: Horse therapy helps veterans heal from the invisible wounds of war

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This Memorial Day, folks throughout the nation are honoring those that died whereas serving in the U.S. armed forces

However, maybe a less-talked-about problem stays: More veterans have died by suicide since the 9/11 attacks than in combat.

Greater than 30,000 American energetic army personnel and veterans concerned in post-9/11 wars are estimated to have died by suicide – a determine not less than 4 occasions higher than the 7,000 service members who have been killed in fight throughout that point, according to research from Brown University and Boston University.

From 2006 to 2021, the U.S. Division of Veterans Affairs discovered that mental health wants elevated by about 98%.

“We make them so strong that they live beyond their humanity in many ways, and see themselves as beyond the need for help until the bottom falls out,” Sherman Gillums Jr., chief technique and influence officer at the Nationwide Alliance on Psychological Sickness, informed Fox Information.

“Mental health and the illnesses that are associated with it when it becomes problematic doesn’t discriminate,” Gillums added. “The only thing that varies is the ability to hide it and whether we ask for help.”


The trauma some service members expertise on the battlefield could result in psychological well being points – the unseen wounds of war.

“We have to remember the mission that we have our veterans do, which is a different mission than the rest of the country,” mentioned Dr. Tamara Campbell, the VA’s appearing government director for the workplace of Psychological Well being and Suicide Prevention. 

In the small city of Jay Em, Wyoming, there’s a program known as Venture Remount Company that pairs veterans or first responders with wild mustangs. The mustangs have PTSD and nervousness themselves, so the program provides reciprocal therapeutic. 

Operation Remount Corporation's ranch in Jay Em, Wyoming.

Operation Remount Company’s ranch in Jay Em, Wyoming.

Kelly Alexander and his spouse, Karen, have been impressed to begin Operation Remount primarily based on his private experiences. Kelly Alexander served for greater than 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has struggled together with his psychological well being after retirement.

He finally discovered a program the place he was matched up with a wild horse.  


“When you are in a 24-foot by 24-foot pen, you really can’t think of stuff that is outside of those railings,” he mentioned.

Kelly Alexander and Audra Smith work with a wild mustang.

Kelly Alexander and Audra Smith work with a wild mustang.

Karen Alexander says it modified her husband’s world.  

“Working with the horses has brought him a new sense of purpose and has also provided him with some peace, so he wanted to provide this for others,” she mentioned.


“Seeing how it affects others in a positive manner is probably even better than when I felt that from my own personal experience,” mentioned Kelly Alexander.

Now, the program helps folks like Army veteran Alisshia Allen, who helped prepare Afghan Military members to be medics. 

“Some of the things that I came across, seen, or had to encounter gave me severe anxiety, nightmares, depression,” mentioned Allen. “I had a hard time coming back and dealing with civilian life.”

Identical for former Air Force medic Audra Smith.

“I wanted to come out here so I could keep working on myself and keep working on those anxieties and the mindfulness and all that stuff,” mentioned Smith.

The belief constructed between the human and the horse permits veterans to decelerate and be in the second.

Iggy the wild mustang.

“They were pulled from their homes just like veterans, when we leave the service we’re pulled from our herd, from our family. And to be able to come here, they are kind of our herd again, they’re our family,” mentioned Smith.

Operation Remount permits the veterans or first responders to maintain the wild horse for themselves after they full the six-week course. The Alexanders hope to have eight vets and first responders on the ranch subsequent yr, and to proceed to develop. 

In the case of veterans fighting psychological well being, the VA provides providers which can be broad and complete.

Karen Alexander pets one of the horses on her ranch in Jay Em.

Karen Alexander pets one of the horses on her ranch in Jay Em.

“Our evidence-based treatments work, and we will do whatever we need to do to get you to a place of safety and the quality of life that you’ve earned,” mentioned Campbell.

If you’re a veteran in disaster or involved about one, name the Veterans Disaster Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

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