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    Hearts & Hooves launches program for vets

    6:35 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Hearts and Hooves is starting a new program that will bring the thrill of the saddle to men and women who have served in combat.

    A long way from the battlefields, there is a place where soldiers returning from war can heal with the help of horses.

    Frankie Stovall, program manager for the veteran therapy, said the program will offer help to people who may not know where to go.

    "What we're trying to do is to provide a safe place. A place for our veterans to come, feel comfortable, to work and their own pace. To be treated as veterans."

    Hearts and Hooves normally serves children with disabilities. Now, the therapeutic riding center wants to help veterans.

    Stovall said the therapeutic riding program will help veterans heal their battle scars.

    "We take it slow, we develop the human, animal bond, we educate, make them comfortable and we take it one step at a time."

    The horses work in a capacity that offers a mix of unconditional trust and affection.

    Hearts and Hooves executive director Lisa Davis said it's therapy that helps the rider escape whatever horrors of war they may still carry.

    "A horse has an innate ability to bring healing to the person with a disability. There's just a connection there I think between that person and the horse," she said.

    According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans are living with the effects of PTSD.

    Stovall said the riding center creates an authentic setting.

    "We're not in a room, we're not under lights. We're outside, we have environment, we have horse, we have that interaction that's completely different from a lot of therapeutic environments that these veterans have experienced," said Stovall.

    Davis hopes this new program will show them the appreciation that they deserve.

    "It's our desire to serve those who have served and to come out and use the horse as an instrument for our veterans to have the opportunity to have some respite," Davis said.

    The first phase of this therapy will begin with five veterans on November 11, which is Veteran's Day. Program leaders said they hope veterans who complete the program will return as volunteers.

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