By Ron Tatus
The mission of Heart of Horse Sense is to educate, train and screen, and then to fund professional Trauma-Informed equine services for Veterans, First Responders, and At-Risk Youth. The organization is aware that there are many wonderful ways in which horses support growth and healing. From that awareness, Heart of Horse Sense stresses the importance of offering those services in an ethical and safe manner – and that it be by well-trained and qualified professionals humans and horses. This stems from the realization that, too often, programs with good intentions don’t have the ability, experience, or wherewithal to offer the services our veterans and youth need and deserve.
According to founder and executive director Shannon Knapp, “Horses heal trauma of all kinds”. She wants to make Equine Therapy available to those who can benefit most. That’s where the Parelli Foundation comes in. To help with various programs provided to veterans, such as Substance Abuse, Psycho-social Rehabilitation, Trauma Resiliency, Compassion Fatigue for Caregivers, Fall-In Friday, and Veterans Healing Farm, the Foundation provided a $5,000 Heroes and Horsemanship grant to Heart of Horse Sense in 2019.
This Heroes and Horsemanship grant helped provide equine-assisted psychotherapy and learning to more than 130 veterans from the Veterans Administration (VA) Substance Abuse Residential Recovery Treatment Program, the VA Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Recovery Program, the Chaplain’s Compassion Fatigue Group, the VA Trauma Resiliency group, a Fall In Friday program teaching natural horsemanship, and a one-day horses and healing immersion program with veterans from the Veteran’s Healing Farm. The goals of these programs were to help veterans improve their mental health, enhance their ability to relate to horses, and to understand natural horsemanship.
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.”
This Marine has since reached out to Heart of Horse Sense for more participation and has begun individual therapy sessions. Largely because of his positive experiences with Heart of Horse Sense and with Parelli Natural Horsemanship principles, this veteran has chosen horses and horsemanship as his method of healing. He’s learning how to become vulnerable, emotionally resilient, and how to communicate even more effectively.
The mission of the Parelli Foundation is to help create a better world for horses and humans through natural horsemanship education. Making a grant to Heart of Horse Sense underscores that noteworthy mission.