Disabled veterans are getting healing help from horses. Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding and Education Center in Harvard, Ill., sees 100 veterans a week. They walk with horses and they ride horses as a means of rehabilitation.
Beginners have an instructor close at hand in an indoor arena; those who become proficient will engage in activities in an outdoor arena or will be able to ride around the grounds.
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Bravehearts founder Marge Gunnar explains how it works: “The movement of the horse really simulates human ambulation, so if you have somebody who has some ambulation but has weak ambulation, you put them on a horse, the movement of the horse is actually supplementing their own movement. That helps build their core trunk strength,” she says.
Bravehearts has been operating for nine years on a 20-acre property that was once a dairy farm. Most of the veterans who come are from the Vietnam era, but Gunnar says more are coming in from recent conflicts, and many of them are suffering from traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, and the interaction with the horses helps them too, she says.
The farm has 19 horses, which Gunnar says are especially suited to this work. The facility also sees 100 children a week.