Alabama horse therapy helping vets

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STAPLETON, Ala. (WKRG) — In tonight’s What’s Working, a unique therapy program for veterans dealing with PTSD. It involves horses. The program takes place at the Equine Therapy Group in the Stapleton community in Baldwin County.

Far from the battlefields of Iraq, to a quiet farm, many local veterans are relying on horses to help them better transition to civilian life. The program is run by Kari Whatley. Whatley says horses mirror human emotions.

“We are giving people new skills for old problems, or more tools for their toolbox. When things like anger or conflict…PTSD…come up, they have a tool to work through it in a positive way. The horses bring it out faster.”

Whatley leads veterans through six-week sessions. She says the veterans end up becoming the best versions of themselves when working with horses.

“Horses are very centering. You have to be the best version of yourself when you work with them. You have to be in a good place, or they will be suspicious and will not want to work with you. So, if people have been in a bad place for a long time, it gives them a chance to let go of negative emotions and get to a positive place they haven’t been for a while,” Whatley said.

News 5 was there as veterans Cordale Walton, and Col. Dave Pollard explained how the program has helped them. Both have undergone divorces since returning from deployment in the Middle East. Walton says returning home has been tough on him. Pollard has suffered from physical and mental issues after living through his convoy being ambushed in Iraq. Neither thought horses could help them regain a sense of normalcy.

“They call it mindfulness, the ability to be focused on the here and now and what you are doing. Once you can appreciate you can do it here, you can start to practice that skill in other things,” Pollard said.

“Horse are powerful creatures. When you are given something to do with a horse, and the horse actually does it, you have more control than you think to do,” Walton added.

Whatley says she is thankful for the support of a local veterans combat group for providing funding for her program.

On September 28th, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is hosting a charity ride to raise money and awareness for this very important horse therapy program. It’s called “Horses for Heroes.” The “Horses for Heroes” dice run starts on the 28th at Mobile Bay Harley Davidson. The last stop is at the ranch in Stapleton where riders will get to see the great work that’s going on there. For more information visit this article on WKRG’s Biker Dad Blog.

Whatley has seen how the horses transform a veteran, and she looks forward to helping more veterans overcome their PTSD.

“It’s not about hanging out with horses. It’s about taking something home with you you can use in your real life,” Whatley said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Aaron Nolan

Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.