Troy* was a Navy veteran who had lost several friends to suicide. He had also attempted suicide himself and struggled with PTSD from this experience. Despite his best efforts, Troy found himself overwhelmed by grief and anxiety. He was struggling to find a way to process his emotions and move forward. One day, his cousin suggested he try equine assisted counseling.
When Troy arrived for his first session, he was highly anxious. He had never worked with horses before and wasn’t sure what to expect. He was immediately drawn to a horse named Sassy who was the first to approach him. Despite her bold approach, there was something calming about Sassy that drew Troy toward her.
As Troy spent more time with Sassy, he began to notice how her behavior changed when his emotions changed. Recognizing changes in Sassy’s behavior helped Troy begin to gain a greater awareness of his own emotions and new perspective on how he was feeling. With Sassy by his side, Troy felt more comfortable to talk about his experiences, even the traumatic ones, with more ease. He found that having a hand on Sassy’s neck helped him stay calmer during these conversations.
Through his time with Sassy, Troy also began to explore his own sense of self since leaving the military. He realized that he struggled with decision-making and was often unsure of what he wanted. But, as Troy continued to work with Sassy and the other horses, he became more confident in recognizing how they communicated with him. In turn, Troy became more confident in recognizing his own needs and communicating them to the horses.
As Troy approached the end of his time in equine assisted counseling, he recognized many ways that the horses had helped him change. He noticed that he was more confident, more self-aware, and better able to manage his emotions. Troy expressed gratitude for the experience and how he would continue to use the skills learned from his time with Sassy for the rest of his life.
You can help military veterans like Troy during Mental Health Awareness Month! For every donation of $15 or more during the month of May 2023, North Texas Giving Day and The Ramesh and Kalpana Bhatia Family Foundation will add an extra $15, amplifying the impact of your contribution.
Donate at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/organization/stepswithhorses
*Names and details have been changed to protect client privacy and identity