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'Lifesavers' Lives Up to Name for Horses & Veterans Alike

Wild Horse RescueKERN COUNTY, Calif. - Down a windy road, past free-range cows and several farm houses is a place called Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue in Twin Oaks, California. It's a safe haven for rescued horses and broken veterans.

"Men and women come here that have no desire to live , it was hard for them to get up that day and then after they found a reason to live, they found the light at the end of the tunnel", says Thomas Smittle, Equine Specialist.

The ranch offers an equine therapy program called Wild Horse Warriors Journey for veterans suffering from trauma. It's designed to nurture emotional growth focusing on overcoming traumatic experiences like PTSD and military sexual assault.

"I have a hard time stepping out in public and working with horses has helped me to step out of that for a little bit and actually be functional in a situation around people", said Trina McDonald, a US Navy veteran.

McDonald and other female veterans are working to overcome the trauma of being assaulted after several years of suffering in silence.

"It's been a very long seven years of healing mentally, emotionally, and even physically", said Hannah Sewell, a US Navy veteran.

Equine specialist, Cheyenne Price, says most veterans that come to the program carry a lot of guilt and shame because of what happened and the horses give them an opportunity to be respected for who they are. 

"To be able to partner with a horse you have to show your vulnerability", says Price. 

The program isn't the only place giving veterans a place to heal. The Bakersfield Veterans Center helped "Jenny" overcome being sexually assaulted in the military.

"I felt worthless, like all my hard work went away, and now I'm here out of the military".

After coming back home from war, "Jenny" says she wanted to end her life. She knew she needed help to get better for her children and that's when she reached out to the veterans center.

"From then until now I feel like a stronger person, someone that can go out in the community and try to do something", said "Jenny". She says receiving counseling from a fellow veteran at the center allowed her to open up and share her story. "If they can overcome the trauma, so can I".

The Wild Horse Warriors Journey and the Bakersfield Veterans Center are serving as life lines allowing veterans the chance to heal from a painful past.

-from www.turnto23.com