Waypoint Ranch in Carrollton, Georgia was founded as a nonprofit organization to provide a place where veteran families can find effective, evidence-based treatments combined with holistic alternative therapies on a working ranch. Having experienced first-hand the toll military service takes on a family, Founders Ray and Stephanie Cirasa are dedicated to supporting veteran families through the challenges associated with recovery from service-related injuries. Over the past 16 years this program has rehabbed more than 50 horses and supported over 500 individuals.
After extensive research, there is arguably no better modality for addressing PTSD than Equine Therapy for those with continued PTSD,” said Retired Colonel Dr. Sean Hollonbeck, MD, MPH, a retired Army aerospace & family medicine physician who is also a Member of the Board of the Directors of the Parelli Foundation. “Globally, short, focused equine-based models with natural horsemanship educational principals are changing lives. Horses are nature’s ultimate prey survivors. They are non-judgmental, want to serve, and can teach immediate tools to veterans and other PTSD survivors.”
California based Wild at Heart Horse Rescue received a 2019 Horse Welfare grant from the Parelli Foundation. The mission of Wild at Heart Horse Rescue is, where possible, to rehabilitate, train, and prepare rescue horses to become the well-loved family members they are meant to be.
Wildhorse Ranch Rescue is creating a magnificent ripple effect for rescued horses, volunteers, adopters, and staff!
In 2019 Wildhorse Ranch Rescue, located in Gilbert, Arizona (www.wildhorse.org ) received a $5,000.00 Horse Welfare grant and other resources from the Parelli Foundation. Founder Kim Meagher wrote the grant for what she calls the Live Your Dream with a Rescue Horse and Adoption Program.
“Being subject to this Parelli clinic I was able to take in the whole clinic from the outside and learned what a little consistency and pressure can teach. Not only for the horses but for the human participants as well. I am truly grateful for this unique experience. It has opened my eyes from the perception I have, always working from the ground. This has opened my mind on communication both interpersonal and body language. I cannot Thank Elli enough for her fun and enthusiasm during her visit with us. We hope to have her back real soon!” – Rachel Barkley-ACTT Naturally Volunteer
One veteran who participated is a former Marine who was discharged from active duty in 2013. Attending a program at Heart of Horse Sense was his first attempt at self-care/healing since his coming home. In his words, “I was able to leave with a new understanding of communication. I keep everything inside as I feel a lot of veterans do. However, with the horse interaction, it showed me that everyone has been through something on some level (including the horses). I discovered the only way through it is, well — through it. The horses as well as the staff gave me the WANT to take that first step in healing and recovery.”
A Licensed 2* Parelli Professional known as “Nancy Natural” hosted a retreat for Special Operations veterans who are on a working journey. “They are self-starters, self-guided, and self-driven at Waypoint Ranch in Carrollton, Ga., where their motto is “Live, Learn, Work, Ride. Your self-carriage is your choice,” said Nancy Slater. “Stephanie Cirasa runs the Peace at Home Project there using her horses. She wanted to see what I was doing in Lake Wales, Fla., using Parelli Natural Horsemanship as a healing tool.”
After funding for equine-assisted counseling ran dry for veterans at S.T.E.P.S. with Horses in Texas, a $2,500 grant from the Parelli Foundation drew them back in July 2019. Licensed professional counselors (or supervised graduate-level interns) and Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.)-certified equine specialists in mental health and learning have since held 18 sessions for four clients.
Horses were the furthest thing from my mind when my friend asked me to attend a local “roundup” for kids at a small barn 6 years ago. It was a bright spring day. A gentle breeze cooled us off from the beating Georgia sun. I stood there in my tennis shoes, awkwardly waiting for my turn to get on the horse. Still, to this day, I remember that first ride. How the saddle squeaked under my weight. How looking down on everyone else gave me an excited chill. How, when I looked up and really felt that horse move under me, I felt like I was someone else. Something else. No longer was I entirely me. Something changed—clicked —within me.
Horses at risk, especially those in their golden years and those blind, are well off at the Maryland Horse Rescue Rehabilitation and Adoption in Mount Airy, Md. A Parelli Foundation grant in 2018 furthered their ability to partner with humans after training by 2* Licensed Parelli Professional Dru Lucia Roia.