They meet as Comrades in Arms. Veterans and horses, both wounded by life, gather monthly in small groups in a Medina, OH barn to share and heal. Among them is John, 74, of Brunswick, a Vietnam Army vet whose days emptied with the death of his wife four years ago. On the barn’s hoof-packed dirt these encounters play out over and over as participants work to reckon with combat-related trauma-PTSD, anger, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship challenges and other issues. Using the principles of equine-assisted therapy, an equine therapy specialist and one or more of the rescued horses, themselves traumatized by previous neglect and abuse, work with the group to get to the heart of what may be standing in the way of moving forward on a path toward healing. Like the veterans, the horses are acutely aware of their surroundings. As prey animals, their intuition and survival instincts naturally mirror what’s going on with individuals and the environment around them. Says John: “You can’t hide your emotions from them; their own past suffering seems to just makes them more in-tune with people suffering from trauma. I can’t explain it, but I can tell you, these guys saved my life.”
The horses are not ridden, due to their own physical, mental or emotional problems. But they do participate in activities with the vets, such as walking, completing modest obstacle courses and trust exercises designed to build confidence and team work.
Forever Amber Acres programs are offered free to military veterans and family members through grant funding, sponsorships and donations. Over 200 military veterans have received free services during the past four years.