MCGREGOR — Talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and trauma with another person can be really difficult, but some people feel more comfortable opening up to horses instead.
“It’s like the light has returned to their face," said Shannon Smith, executive director of Reach Therapeutic Riding Center. "They are there to show you unconditional love and support and help you heal through whatever it is that is ailing you."
Reach Therapeutic Riding Center has a mission to help those struggling with a disability or their mental health through equine therapy.
“We use the horse as a tool in a therapeutic type of setting," Smith said. "You’re also in a totally different environment. So you’re not sitting in an office, you’re not sitting in a cold room feeling super clinical and talking to one person.”
According to the Newport Academy, animal-assisted therapy helps reduce stress and can help those who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
“Their breathing will start to synchronize with the horse and the horse will drop its head to the side and will become totally relaxed as the participant starts to relax,” Smith said.
And for the many people that walk through those barn doors, Smith said that those who struggle with PTSD-like symptoms come out completely transformed.
“You know they come in just like totally disconnected but as soon as you compare them with the horse, you watch and you can kind of see that the slow transition that they take and that color and the brightness comes back into their face,” Smith said.
Whether participants are riding horses or just taking care of them, being around nature, and animals allow their mind to focus on something else.
“They aren’t going to make you feel bad about yourself, they aren’t going to gossip behind your back. They are just going to meet you where you are and support you and love you unconditionally,” Smith said.