Veterans’ find comfort on horses

New York veterans are getting back in the saddle thanks to a horseback-riding program that helps them overcome post traumatic stress disorder.

Brooklyn-based Seaside Therapeutic Riding is providing free horseback-riding lessons to several area veterans hoping to take their minds off the terrors of war.

“The therapy comes from the horse, not from us,” said Daniel Cutler, a Vietnam veteran who runs the program out of the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy. “You ride a horse for half an hour, you’re not thinking about your problems when you’re trying not to fall off.”

Six veterans have joined the eight-week program so far, and there’s a waiting list to sign up. But funds are scarce because Cutler relies solely on donations and volunteers.

The veterans said the program has been a helpful – if unexpected – part of their therapy.

“It helps you release the anxiety you get from being in a war zone,” said Pamela O’Donnell, a 28-year-old Iraq war veteran from Middle Village, Queens, who served with the Marines in Anbar Province in 2004 during some of the heaviest fighting there.

“When you ride a horse, you have to let go of your fear,” she said.

Cutler, who has been riding for about 50 years, said horses are natural therapists.

“There are no secrets between the horse and rider – the horse knows all your fears,” he said.

The veterans are given lessons on riding, but they also groom the horses and help clean the stables.

Read the whole story here.

An audio slideshow is here.

A related report from CBS TV.

There are three things needed to help expand this program

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Horses

If you are able to make a donation to allow this program to expand please mail a check to:

Seaside Therapeutic Riding Inc.
3903 Nostrand Ave
Suite LL-3
Brooklyn, New York 11235

If you would like to volunteer to help, or, if you or anyone you know has a good riding horse that could be donated, please email Dan Cutler at info@seasideriding.com

The ideal horse would be older, large and broad backed for larger men and women to ride and so that amputees would be able to maintain their balance.

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