Because those in the armed forces risk their lives to protect our nation, several volunteer nonprofit organizations, such as Horses and Heroes, Inc. in Johnson County, are on a mission to assist these individuals once they return home.
The wife and mother of Marine Corps veterans, Julie Baker understands the trials faced by those in the armed services and has met many veterans struggling with addiction, depression, and loss of purpose. She founded Horses and Heroes to improve the health and well-being of veterans and their families through equine-assisted psychotherapy.
The program unites horses suffering from emotional and physical traumas with military veterans and first responders in need of similar healing, according to Baker’s daughter, Nicole Lavine, a former Marine who serves as the organization’s marketing director.
“She was helping take care of some traumatized horses, and … realized there was this very strong correlation between how horses deal with trauma—they have a hard time trusting, they’re jumpy, they’re restless—and how … people deal with trauma,” Lavine says. “So she decided to bring the two together.”
Each outdoor therapy session takes a team approach with the client, a horse, a mental health specialist, and an equine specialist certified in understanding horse behavior.
“The whole point is to study the horse for your own healing,” says Lavine, adding that horses are an effective tool because they are social herd animals, are intuitive, and have emotional intelligence.
Horses and Heroes also offers any veteran the opportunity to interact with the horses on the farm by appointment.
Horses & Heroes, Inc
www.horsesandheroes.org | (913) 210-5678