Rescue Horses and Veterans: A Good Fit

Rescue Horses and Veterans: A Good Fit

Several organizations help military soldiers and veterans as they give new life to horses in need.


On this Veterans’ Day, The Homes for Horses Coalition salutes both veterans and those helping them reclaim their lives as they give new life to horses in need.

Horses4Heroes's mission is focused on serving military heroes and their families. Through Operation Free Ride, thousands of military men, women, and their children have registered for and/or received free horseback rides at host facilities from coast to coast. In addition to recreational programs for military families, Horses4Heroes offers therapeutic programs to veterans such as Back in the Saddle, a four-week empowerment workshop, and Unfinished Business, a program for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (commonly known as PTSD) and those others working to recover from a loss or another difficult situation. Wherever and whenever possible, Horses4Heroes uses rescue horses in these programs.

At Zuma’s Rescue Ranch, in Littleton Colo., the ZEAL Program combines animal-assisted coaching and experiential learning to help veterans rebuild trust and confidence, as well as refocus their attention to giving to the horses while healing broken minds and bodies, the group said.

“The skill developed working through life’s challenges with equine therapy partners is one that cannot compare to traditional educational models, said Jodi Messenich, executive director of Zuma’s. “The partnering with horses once destined for slaughter brings a level of compassion coupled with a desire to help another being. Those life lessons are creating compassionate hard working young men and women to lead our next generation.”

The Soldier Buddies program at Riding Star Ranch, in DeLeon Springs, Fla., matches returning military soldiers and veterans with at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 22. The military veterans serve as positive role models and help instill morals, character, and essential life skills to their young "buddies." Together, the Soldier Buddies care for a program horse including learning how to ride and/or drive in the structured equine-assisted environment. The human benefits of the program include learning responsibility, compassion, self-esteem, trust, and teamwork among other social and life skills, the group sais. The horses involved in the program benefit from the socialization and retraining while receiving loving, hands-on care from the Soldier Buddies, the groups said, which are vital aspects to the rehoming and adoption of the rescue horses.

Cindy Gendron, Homes for Horses' coalition coordinator, said, “These are just a few of our members that have witnessed the symbiotic relationship that rescue horses can have with humans that need healing. It’s an honor to observe how these and other members are helping veterans face unique challenges by allowing them to bond with horses facing their own.”

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