, a therapeutic horsemanship organization based in Chatsworth, is in the midst of fundraising for its equine-therapy program for military veterans. The resource is currently free to veterans, and volunteers are fighting to keep it that way.
Pat UpdeGraff, the organization's director, said that although it was unsuccessful in its in 2010, it is taking steps to find new funding avenues, not just for its veterans program but for all of its equine therapy projects.
Ride with Pride receives no government assistance and relies entirely on donations.
The nonprofit currently has one Vietnam veteran on its books, with many more on its waiting list. The staff combine psychotherapy with equine therapy to help vets readjust to civilian life and family relationships.
According to UpdeGraff, the veterans work with the horses on the ground, not in the saddle.
"The veterans program is unmounted. A psychologist, a horse handler and the horse work with the client," said UpdeGraff. "They cover PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], depression anxiety, anger—whatever the client needs to work on."
Tedi Tate of the Warhorse Alliance, an organization working in partnership with Ride with Pride, and Barbara Levine, an Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) certified mental-health specialist, are spearheading the work with veterans.
Tate talked about some of the ways that equine therapy assists returning veterans.
"[It] highlights skills that are learned in the military that can transfer to really rewarding work in the civilian sector," said Tate.
"If someone is struggling with drug abuse or addiction or anger management, a lot of times the valuable stuff just gets buried," Tate said. "One of the aims of the work is to calm difficulties and get to the really valuable stuff—and have a life in the civilian sector that is rewarding.”
Levine spoke about patients looking closely at the way they interact with the horses, and applying those behaviors to everyday life.
"How do those ways of operating help you and hurt you? And when do you recognize that it's time to quit and walk away from something and accept that we still made some progress?" said Levine. "They're valuable themes to work with."
Patch was unable to watch a veteran participate in an equine therapy session, due to client confidentiality; but click on the video to see Tate and Levine talk about the program and give a mock session.
Interested in finding out more about Ride with Pride? It will have a booth at Chatsworth's Day of the Horse at Stoney Point Ranch on Sunday, and will be taking seven riders to the 2011 CALNET equestrian therapy show in mid-May.