Happy Trails for Veterans in Equine Therapy

Some of the most innovative recreation therapy programs for veterans in the nation can be found at the Grand Junction (CO) Veterans Health Care System (HCS).   Their current list of activities includes bicycling, fly-fishing, bowling, aquatic therapy, kayaking, skiing, rock-climbing, geocaching, hunting, as well as community outings and arts programs.  “We pride ourselves on providing veterans the best and most diverse set of activities to set and keep them on the path to a positive and healthy lifestyle,” says   Recreation Therapy Supervisor Matt Lucas, CTRS.  “Medicine is just one piece of the puzzle; if we can keep our veterans active and engaged we know we’ve got a strong chance of truly making a difference in their lives.”

And thanks to a grant from BVL, that innovative rec therapy bar at the Grand Junction HCS just got set a whole lot higher.

“For some time, we have wanted to implement an equine therapy program for the Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder veterans at our medical Center, which has never been done,” continues Matt.  “We’d done a lot of research on these programs and the outcomes have been quite remarkable.”

So when the BVL grant came in, Grand Junction Recreation Therapist Ryan Keyes got to work coordinating the program.  Six veterans were able to participate in in six sessions of the Equine Therapy Program this past fall/winter.  The equine therapy took place at Harmony Acres just outside of Fruita, Colorado. It was there that the veterans had the opportunity to learn how to properly take care of horses, get to know the horses, and, importantly, learn to gain their trust. From there, the veterans led the horses around the arena, and finally, began riding them.

Where did the proverbial trail lead the veterans?

“The veterans that participated in the program showed improvement in their socialization, trust, self-fulfillment and decreased stress,” said Ryan. “It was a great success and a wonderful alternative for our veterans. “Without your grant/donation this would not have been possible!”