Horse Therapy Program Helps Connect with Veterans

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Sitting Bull College is giving back to warriors who served our country through the Equine Assisted Learning Program. It uses horses as therapists to help our veterans overcome barriers.

These gentle giants have been a part of Native American culture for hundreds of years, which is why Phillip Bird Horse says like the buffalo, šunkawakan, or holy dogs, are perfect for the job as a therapist.

"I truly believe they've really learned how to protect themselves and keep themselves safe and as a people we've kind of lost that how to keep ourselves safe, well, emotionally, physically, mentally," said Bird Horse, Sitting Bull College, horsemanship associate.

The program helps veterans like Philip McLaughlin, who came back from Desert Storm with an injured knee and PTSD.

"I started having nightmares, flash backs and not really understanding what was going on. It was scary," said McLaughlin, Marine Corps.

He says the horses calm him.

"They sense it. They're strange beings but they're helpful," McLaughlin said.

"I really believe that when we connect with these horses, we connect with our soul, because we have to change so much, you know, whether we like it or not make this connection," Bird Horse said.

Everyone learns something about themselves.

"That I'm very anxious a lot and I stress over things too much," said Kenny Horsley, Vietman War Navy veteran. "It's a getting back to nature type of thing for me and I just really appreciate it."

Even if everyone's not a horse whisperer, these horses whisper back.

The program has been around for five years and Bird Horse and his team also work with Standing Rock Sioux Nation youth and adults.