Aligning Veterans’ Strengths with Horses’ Freedom for Healing

Soul to Soles Connection, is dedicated to providing a safe space for service members and their families to overcome challenges. While being supported by the horses and our professional facilitators, participants are offered the time they need to heal. As an Eagala Military Service Program, we have specialized training and experience with the military community. Our mission is to offer the Eagala model of equine assisted psychotherapy to service members and their families. We honor all by providing a supportive haven – a place where concerns and struggles can be explored and released. The experiential nature of working with horses engages active and retired military in their own healing process, with solutions that meet them squarely on their own terms.

Willow Equine is currently recruiting Veterans and service members to participate in an individual equine mental health intervention aimed at treating trauma and the impacts of military service. There is no cost to U.S. Veterans and Service Members.

Participants will receive 8 individual, 60-minute EAP sessions OR 8 closed group, 90-minute EAL sessions. These services are being provided by the VA Adaptive Sports Grant which was awarded to Eagala and is being administered through Eagala’s Military Services partner organizations.

Here’s why our program is valuable for service members, Veterans and their families:

NOVEL & ENGAGING

The non-traditional setting helps service members move beyond the perceived stigma that can be associated with talk-only therapy and office visits.

BREAKTHROUGHS

These highly-in-tuned animals offer safe reflection and compelling feedback for fears and anxieties that military clients may be facing. In the hands of our professional facilitators, the horses’ unique sensitivity can help clients understand their own internal processes more readily than hours of talk.

HERD DYNAMICS

Horses live in herds. Herd dynamics can help clients understand their own lives.  Observing the dynamics of the herd can help clients better understand the dynamics of their own family, military unit, and community. This provides another positive model for collaboration, support and trust.

FOSTERS RESILIENCE

Life is about experience and doing. Our work provides opportunities for service members and their families to discover their resources and strengths. They can overcome perceived obstacles to change and grow in their unit, communities, and homes. Clients challenge themselves in activities that remove the perceived stigma associated with traditional talk therapy.

Watch Eagala Therapy Leaders Meet with Congress

“In the Horse Capital of the World, horses are integrated into most aspects of life, whether for work on a farm, entertainment at Keeneland, or just part of a family as a pet. So, it’s only natural they find their way into the field of health.

“One thing about our veterans is that with PTSD, they are hyper-vigilant to everything around them but it’s difficult to stay in the moment,” CEO and Co-Founder of Acres for Life Therapy and Wellness Center Lynn Moore said. “So, they can learn from those horses about what it’s like to be able to be calm, be present.”

“For someone in the military like me, it’s hard to swallow my pride and ask for help. This was a safe environment to open up in. Sometimes the horses talked for me and helped show me the path to save my marriage.”

-Active Duty Veteran 

“The Eagala Model uses the horse to gain insight into behaviors horse’s and perceptions. The reactions provide unbiased and real time breaking feedback, through the barriers that many experience military members in conversations with others who cannot begin to understand what we feel because we made it back.”

Jimmy L. Walters, COL, USA (Ret)

Willow Equine allows the Veteran to bask in sensory stimulation … enjoy the warm beams of sunshine that rest upon cheekbones or catch a whiff of honeysuckle while being serenaded by a chorus of birds chirping. Simple freedoms such as these are a gentle reminder of all that Veterans, and their family members, sacrifice to protect our homeland and the liberties offered to all residing here. Despite the magnitude of what these Veterans faced in combat, a trip to Willow Equine leaves them filled with gratitude. They understand that these simple freedoms are anything but simple.

-Terri Gilbeau, CTRS VA Medical Center, Salisbury, North Carolina