We continue our effort to raise awareness about issues local veterans face as they come home from war. After seeing doctors and therapists and visiting hospitals and clinics, many vets looking for help with emotional problems are finding it on a farm in Hilton.
Welcome to Windhorse Farm in Hilton. A place where veterans learn to believe in themselves. It's run by Psychiatrist Joe Lancia and his brother Alan Bertch.
"It's a pretty powerful experience" says Dr. Lancia. "I've had some vets who are so shut down when they come here, they wouldn't even make eye contact, their posture would be all stooped over. And in the course of two or three sessions they're standing taller."
At Windhorse farm they believe horses can do great things for veterans with anger and other emotional problems. Vietnam Veteran Levi Jackson has struggled with PTSD since 1976. Levi has become a believer. "This is the only thing I've found so far that has helped me."
This equine therapy program is unique because believe it or not when a vet comes to Windhorse farm they never get on a saddle and ride. Instead they work with the horses to learn problem solving.
This is psycho-therapy, just not in a doctors office. It's physical work, outdoors. The vets build relationships with the horses as they try to get them to do things like jump over a pole. The horses become symbols of painful experiences. Dr. Lancia says working with them helps feelings come to the surface. "So if one horse is identified as anger for example and another horse is identified as patience, they'll look at what's happening with anger and patience through the series of sessions that they have and try and move anger towards a better place they want to shoot for in their treatment plan."
Retired Marine Nick Stefanovich was lost after one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. "I was full of anger and hate towards, towards the world."
Nick got into trouble. But after therapy at Windhorse Farm he's graduated college and is ready to get his masters. He says he wouldn't have been able to accomplish all that without this equine program.
Levi Jackson is a changed man because of the horses. "I believe in them. These animals have helped me restore my life. And I give the credit to the equine psycho therapy."
There are many who believe horses sense fear, pain and even love in humans. At Windhorse Farm they believe horses are healers and so do the hundreds of veterans who've come to know them.
Windhorse farm gives away 50 to $60,000 in services to veterans each year. Funding from the VA is at best inconsistent, in reality nonexistent. They can really use our help. They also do team building and family therapy. For information on Windhorse Farm click here.