Saratoga WarHorse program helping veterans with PTSD amid pandemic

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EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Saratoga WarHorse helps our veterans every day, using retired thoroughbred racehorses to work with service members who have post-traumatic stress. Now, amidst the pandemic, they’re looking to help out even more.

Since April, roughly 50,000 troops have been activated domestically and put to the front lines to fight this pandemic. To help their efforts, Saratoga WarHorse launched a new equine therapy program for these retired members and veterans.

It’s called the Military Armed Forces and Racehorses, otherwise known as FAR. They say it’s set to intervene in the field of trauma aftercare while preventing symptoms from worsening, which might have a ripple effect on the family.

The program provides a modified version of their normal three-day program providing a point of intervention to prevent post-traumatic stress.

Normally, in those three days for veterans who have gone through it, it’s an experience like no other. Josh Kaplan, a Marine Core Veteran, said it was much needed. As someone who dealt with over-aggression, apprehension, and overall suffered from PTSD, he called it a connection process with the former racehorse.

“Each veteran and horse work together to accept each other. The only way you can do that is basically go against I was trained to do, and everything I was taught in order to survive,” Kaplan said. “Each veteran will get out of it what they need—I truly believe that—but it makes it very personable.”

The veteran, who now works as a program facilitator for Saratoga WarHorse, says being locked in a pen to work with a horse four times his size made for an adrenaline rush that he was used to from being in the military. To navigate the entire process, you have to suppress the rush and visibly calm down.

Non-verbal communication with a horse give it permission to come in and create the connection they’re looking for. Kaplan says he still uses these strategies on a day-to-day basis.

The Military FAR program is set to launch before the end of the year and currently accepting participants.

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