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Horses help vets, first responders heal from the effects of PTSD

Edward Gilliard still suffers the effects of the combat wounds he received in the Vietnam War: His voice is a soft whisper, and his legs ache. But it was a daunting caseload as a career social worker in Philadelphia — years spent investigating child-abuse cases, working with adjudicated delinquents, and later supporting those with AIDS — that stirred back to life the trauma he had experienced in combat.
For years he underwent traditional psychotherapy for his post-traumatic stress disorder, with mixed results. It wasn’t until he worked with horses at Shamrock Reins — a nonprofit, equine-assisted therapy ranch for military personnel, first responders, and their families in Pipersville, Bucks County — that Gilliard found the serenity he had long sought, amid the camaraderie of other war vets who understood.
“I am at peace,” said Gilliard, of Elkins Park, who served as a Marine.
It was the vision of Janet Brennan, the founder of Shamrock Reins, to help veterans who suffered from the effects of war.
“They don’t have that brotherhood or sisterhood when they leave the military,” said Brennan, a former trauma nurse and pharma executive. “This gives them a feeling of purpose.”
And those 1,000-pound animals understand them, she said.