Several miles northeast of Austin, lies a sanctuary of sorts. It’s a safe space for horses and humans alike to share real and raw emotion.
Recently the Healing with Horses Ranch hosted a group of veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project for a program on equine therapy.
“The horses like honesty. You’re allowed to be angry, or frustrated. You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be excited or happy,” says Program Director Patty D’Andrea.
It’s a cause that is near and dear to D'Andrea's heart, as her father spent many years away from home serving in the Air Force.
“The war took my father from me. He was in World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War,” says D’Andrea.
Here in Manor at the Healing with Horses Ranch, something magical happens.
Greg Phelps, a US Army Veteran feels a certain sense of relief around the horses. It reminds him of his hometown in Ohio.
“It’s a nice calm that comes over me, whenever I’m around horses and a ranch. It feels like home,” Phelps says.
The ranch has thirteen horses and one adorably ornery donkey. Veterans have the opportunity to connect through personality and instinct.
D’Andrea says that the horses don’t communicate in English, so body language is key when choosing a horse for therapy.
For US Army Veteran Steve Wiley, his time with a horse named Gypsy helped him to relate to experiences he has faced in the past when serving our country.
“As you see, when another horse approaches her, she automatically goes into defense mode. We have a tendency to do that ourselves,” Wiley says.
As the therapy goes on, Wiley says he is able to feel a sense of calm being with Gypsy.
This was the first time the Healing for Horses Ranch was able to partner with The Wounded Warrior Project. They hope to foster a relationship with the organization as therapy programs are completely free for veterans.