I’d like to introduce you to the Wounded Warriors Equestrian Program (WWEP). I found them on Facebook when I noticed a post with horses. Anyone who’s been reading my blog knows I own a horse and the WWEP is involved in healing veterans through equine therapy.
The WWEP is a non-profit organization dedicated to giving veterans and horses a new lease on life. They support therapeutic riding facilities and horse rescue farms across the United States, providing rehabilitative services to wounded veterans of all services.
WWEP Equine Therapeutic Programs (ETPs) have a certified or specially-trained riding instructor teaching a Wounded Warrior how to ride and care for a horse. (This horse may also be a Wounded Warrior which has already been given a new lease on life as it may have been sent to a Horse Rescue at one point in its lifetime.)
Working with horses provides more than just riding skills – participants also learn companionship, responsibility, confidence, leadership, vocational and educational skills, with the possibility of progressing into competitive venues in various riding disciplines. Riding a horse provides a unique, often profound, recreational or leisure activity for all involved. There are many sports in which Wounded Warriors can participate in to enhance their lives and attain social and physical fitness.
The WWEP is creating relationships with hundreds of programs (and many organizations) worldwide which are dedicated to horseback riding or horse care in the context of a cognitive or other disability. A Warrior who interacts with his or her horse will ultimately extend this interaction to others and form meaningful relationships with people.
Building a relationship with an animal is very rewarding in this respect: for a person with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to the Warrior how important he or she is to everyday life. They then apply this newly-acquired self-esteem to personal relationships. A horse enables a person to feel in control of his or her situation. By dealing with horses, there is a direct relationship between action and reaction.
To learn how to care for and ride a horse, a Warrior must be able to communicate effectively with both horse and instructor. Riding is very much a social activity, but may be less daunting to those uncomfortable in social situations. Riding a horse is an experience that empowers a Warrior, enabling them to connect with others on a personal level.
Horses help Warriors drop those barriers erected to sustain and be successful in combat. The sometimes unpredictable nature of animals creates a real-life environment in which a Warrior confronts his or her fears, and adjusts to situations beyond their control. Many of our Warriors need to have a quiet, peaceful environment, and so do horses.