‘Warrior Camp’ offers new approach for veterans

Training to use alternate method of equine therapy to help veterans overcome trauma

TEMPLE — For years now, Touchstone Farm has been assisting those with developmental and physical disabilities to grow and heal with the power of equine therapy. Next week, they will be including recent veterans to that list, helping them to overcome trauma and injuries sustained in war, when they host a week-long Warrior Camp for recent and active veterans.

This will be the first time that Touchstone Farm will be hosting a Warrior Camp. Active military members and recent veterans will spend a week working with a Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association model of therapy. Over the course of the week, veterans will receive trauma therapy, which includes treatment by clinicians in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, yoga, and equine assisted psychotherapy. They will work closely with both their team and their horse partners.

The model doesn’t include horseback riding, according to www.eagala.org. Instead, the horses become metaphors in specific ground-based experiences. Given scenarios with their horses, participants have to find their own solutions to problems, finding the ones that work the best for them. The horse they work with is in itself part of the therapeutic team, providing an aware, non-verbal partner in the scenarios, while a equine specialist handles the safety of the veterans and the horses, and a mental health professional that all work together.

According to the website, horses are generally naturally large and can be intimidating, which offers a chance for those working with them to overcome fears, building confidence as they work with, instead of against, their horse partners. And, horses are social animals who run in herds and have a myriad assortment of personalities, just like people. That makes drawing those metaphors from horses to real life a little easier. But more importantly, according to the website, is the horse’s ability to mirror human emotion. A person that is attempting to approach their horse with a stubborn or aggressive attitude won’t find a willing, easygoing partner on the other end. Having to reflect on and change their own behavior to get the desired response from their animal helps to show the best way to adjust behavior when dealing with people as well.

Warrior Camp is a trademark of Trauma and Resiliency Resources, Inc., a New York City-based non-profit and partner of the Real Warriors Campaign. The Real Warriors Campaign’s main mission is to facilitate the reintegration of soldiers with their family and civilian lives.

All participants are screened by a clinician to assess whether or not they are ready for group and individual treatment. Group activities including meetings, team building, equine assisted psychotherapy, yoga and hikes are voluntary, but encouraged. Warrior Camp is funded by private donations. Local restaurants will proved dinners, and Purina has donated feed for all participating horses during the week of Warrior Camp. The camp will be held from Nov. 16-23 and is free to active or recent veterans. For more information, visit www.touchstone-farm.org.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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