Veterans Start To Heal With 'Horse Whisperer's' Help
Updated On: Sep 08 2014 07:11:09 PM CDT
A group of veterans from different generations are starting to heal from emotional wounds after years of war.
The world renowned "Horse Whisperer" has taken in hundreds of vets hoping his animals can help the men and women.
"Good man! Perfect!" said Monty Roberts as he approvingly looked at Mike Woolley in the round pen below him.
Woolley, is learning how to trust again. His partner in the exercise is a horse trying to get away from him.
"They are flighty. So when they chose to be with you it has to be with trust. And trust is what these military people lack," said Roberts.
Roberts has been working with horses since he was a young boy. His innovative ways of training horses caught the world's attention. He's now using some of that recognition to help veterans.
"When you get your emotions in check, she'll get her emotions in check. And this is the same when you're dealing with people. And you're anxiety ridden, and you're thinking about the rigors of what you've been through in your life. You will take people up, the same way you take horses up," said Roberts as he continued to watch over and coach Woolley.
Woolley's military career started right after high school when he joined the Navy. Then came the Colorado Army National Guard. A year ago, he spent a year in Iraq.
From the battle field to the Flag Is Up Farms, he and other veterans no longer have to worry about risking their life in a war, but the fight isn't over yet. They are battling something very real that often goes unspoken.
"I struggled with PTSD horribly. For the first six years it was a private struggle that I wouldn't even tell myself. I was living in denial. I said I was fine," said Alejandra Sanchez, an Army veteran.
Sanchez was one of Roberts' first veterans to join the program four years ago. She now continues to return to the ranch to help others.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common string that connects the vets that has them come to Roberts' three day horse program to get a piece of their life back.
"I tried doing this on my own for a long time and I got worse," said Woolley.
At the farm, things began to change. The horses allowed many of the participants to relax and even laugh.
"The horses just have an energy that is healing and you just have to come to experience that. No one can really explain it to you, and I see it time and time again with new vets," said Sanchez.
After just one day, Woolley's wife saw the turning point in her husband and couldn't contain her excitement.
"In his sleep last night!" said Deborah Woolley with a smile. "And it was the first time he didn't have those flashback dreams that terrorize him at night and keep him from sleeping."
Roberts calls the program the "Horse Sense and Healing Weekend." He said it includes loved ones like Deborah Woolley because when they go home, "it's those people that are really the therapists in the lives of the veterans."
"He hasn't shared everything with me; he's afraid to. So being able to do this together, maybe he can trust me to let me help him further," said Deborah Woolley.
After the horse runs in circles for a while in the round pen, it begins to trust the man or woman in the ring with it. Then as the person turns away, the horse begins following him or her.
That's what Roberts calls join up; when the horse and people begin to let down their guard.
"It speaks a million words. I'm still kind of shaken because it's just a neat experience. It was awesome," said Mike Woolley.
Roberts said even at the age of 80, that excitement keeps him going strong.
"Watching these people grow and improve, it's a gratification that you just can't explain. I have energy boundless. And I hope it can go on for at least another 10 years," he said with a smile.
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