Horses to help veterans heal

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Healing Hoofbeats of Connecticut will be hosting an Italian dinner fundraiser at American Legion Seicheprey Post 2, 22 Hooker Ct, Bristol on Saturday, March 21, from 5 to 8 p.m. The animal assisted therapy practice opened in 2016, and the Operation Warrior Horse program began in 2017. The program is a free 10 week equine group therapy program for veterans wanting to heal from trauma while being in the military.

“We are an animal assisted therapy practice out of Morris, Conn., and are promoting our veterans equine therapy program called Operation Warrior Horse. Horses are the perfect partner for therapy. They utilize their keen sensitivity to non-verbal communication to assist us in developing new relationship skills, regulate emotions and begin the healing process. This is a quick and effective therapy model that can assist with various issues like social skills, anxiety and trauma,” said Nicole DeFelice, Healing Hoofbeats.

DeFelice said that no prior experience with horses is required because the majority of the activities with the horses are done on the ground, but they do occasionally incorporate riding into the program to enhance the relationship between the Veteran and their horse.

“Our services are offered all year round. While working with the horses the veterans will learn horsemanship skills like grooming, haltering and leading the horses. They will also practice mindfulness And being present through connection with activities like synchronizing their breathing with their horse, creating obstacle courses to maneuver with their horse and so much more. “

“Our program is versatile and flexible in that my partner and I do our best to adapt the program to the needs of each veteran,” said DeFelice.

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“There are currently four horses at our location in Morris. The horses are our partners in the therapy process. We spend a lot of time meeting the horses and working with them prior to them being selected to join our team. This special work asks them to be open to connection, giving us their trust and confidence, so to honor that commitment we spend many hours training them and ensuring they love this work as much as we do,” said DeFelice.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jamila Young, email her at News@BristolObserver.com.