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Equine therapy reins in veterans' fears, trauma in Warren County

Veterans work with horses at Spring Reins of Life in Franklin Township, Warren County, to ease problems such as post traumatic stress disorder.
Straw knows trauma. The horse suffered what should have been life-ending injuries several years ago, breaking two legs and her neck. She has recovered, although one leg is shorter than the other and deformed, and two of her vertebrae are fused.
 
The horse's experience is not unlike the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by the military veterans with whom the animal works.
 
And through her work in equine assisted psychotherapy, Straw demonstrates that just because you may feel broken, you don't have to live broken, said program founder Christianna Capra. Working as partners, horse and man learn to trust one another, she said.
 
The nonprofit Spring Reins of Life uses Straw and three other horses to provide equine therapy at a farm off Whites Road in Franklin Township, Warren County. Capra has run the program since its founding in 2011 and serves veterans, at-risk youths and children in bereavement.
 
Capra said this form of therapy provides an option for veterans for whom traditional therapy is not working.
 
The sessions provide a safe place for veterans to express themselves and explore their emotions without having to put those emotions into words, Capra said. They learn from the horses how to calm themselves, she said.
 
"Hippotherapy has proven to significantly help participants rebuild self-confidence, communication and trust," said U.S. Army veteran Phil Pesano, a mental health professional with Lakewood Veterans and member of the fundraising group for Spring Reins of Life.