Case study

Hearts for Heroes uses a variety of animal therapies to support our veterans – a “no talk” environment and the unconditional support of animals combine for program success.

Off the track...

Rescue animals are deeply grateful to be given a second chance. Through retraining, desensitization, and education, many become the most special type of therapists. Following is a story of a session conducted with an “off the track” rescued racehorse.

As the family entered the enclosed arena, it was noticeable how mother, father, and sister were standing close - while the brother was standing separately.

The mother, being more verbal in nature, began to discuss her anguish at not being able to help her son. The sister cried as her mother talked and the father, tight jawed, observed.

As the mother’s emotions began to escalate, the rescued racehorse began to walk towards the brother. Upon approach, we noticed how he separated the three from the one.

Standing quietly with the brother, he swished his tail and then faced the young man – face to face. As the mother continued on describing her anguish and attempts to heal, her husband placed his hands on her shoulders. Visibly, the three moved closer to one another and the horse moved closer to the young man.

Placing the front of his head against the young man's chest, he allowed himself to be pet on the face and ears. Almost not noticing the other horses in the arena, the two seemed to be connected - somehow.

As the young man pet this horse on his head, the ears and long neck, the horse began to bend his head closer and closer to the ground. The more the horse appeared to relax, the more the young man began to breath more deeply. They stood this way for 15 minutes.

The mother had stopped talking, and the three who stood separated by the horse, said, "…look, the horse is listening." Finally speaking, the young man said, "that is what I need."

The ability of horses to take on the emotional and situational responses is profound. This rescued, starved and mistreated animal was able to offer the unconditional support this young man craved from his family.

Having been cared for correctly, with respect, the horse was able to heal within our programs and come out on the other side – in peace and support. Understanding another “being” was in pain, he was able to reach out to him and give non-judgmental support while assuring confidence in the individual - so he could express his true needs.

Animals offer humans their unconditional love and support. Within our programs, they are also able to share their own life lessons and healing experiences with individuals in need of this type of care.

Case study update in progress