A staggering number of former military service members are facing mental health challenges and isolation, but a local collaboration is helping to heal the effects of trauma by utilizing therapy horses.

Operation Warrior Resolution, an organization that provides holistic treatments for veterans, has teamed up with Easterseals Southwest Florida and its Nokomis-based InStride Therapy equine center to form a first-of-its-kind equine therapy program in our region.

The Horses for Heroes program is an experiential learning program that uses both mounted and un-mounted equine assisted activities and therapies to assist in physical and emotional healing. It is widely recognized that equine-assisted learning is an effective strategy that can benefit veterans physically, emotionally, spiritually and vocationally.

“When someone is struggling with their mental health, their body and mind is in a constant state of stress,” said Kendra Simpkins, founder of Operation Warrior Resolution and Army veteran. “Equine therapy is one big tool we have for helping to rewire the parasympathetic nervous system. Beyond the physical benefits, riding helps a person explore their feelings, build trust, and improve confidence.”

Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation is helping make these collaborations possible through a $75,000 grant to Operation Warrior Resolution. Funds will also be used to help promote the programs, so more people will be served.

Launched on February 5, veterans will have the opportunity to connect with another sentient being that always responds honestly, without judgement and without an agenda. Working with horses can address connection and communication deficits, re-engaging caring feelings and mutual trust as well as respect in a relationship. The program also helps decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as help participants start reestablishing relationship skills.

“Horses are powerful partners in healing,” Easterseals Southwest Florida President and CEO Tom Waters said. “Beyond the physical, occupational and speech advances we see for our clients every day, the behavioral and coping tools the horses provide are remarkable. To extend treatments and respite to our nation’s veterans is an honor for our agency.”

To learn more or get involved, visit www.operationwarriorresolution.org

About Barancik Foundation

The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida.

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