Photos and Article by: Jackie Holfelder
The credo of Horses & Heroes of Southeast Florida is Camaraderie, Connection, Collaboration and Community.
The mission of the nonprofit is to connect veterans who struggle with physical and emotional (PTSD) trauma with horses that help the military heroes re-learn how to build successful inter-human connections.
The all-volunteer organization only uses professionals to conduct its counseling.
Marie Ferri, LMHC, an accomplished equestrian and licensed mental health therapist, teams up with Karen Woodbury, a certified Equine Specialist and owner of three horses, to bring the eight-week program to veterans.
Woodbury says that the majority of them have no experience with horses.
“Our program is on the ground,” she says. “During the first meetings, participants learn to observe horses to safely build an appreciation for the human/horse relationship. The innate trait of horses as herd animals correlates beautifully with the bond of brotherhood shared by service members.”
Marci Meyerowich, a board member/volunteer at Horses & Heroes, says, “Learning to build bonds and relationships with horses leads to being able to be comfortable doing the same with people.”
The program has already been tested successfully with several veterans who continue to maintain the progress they’ve made after finishing the sessions.
Since Horses & Heroes is waiting for its 501(c)(3) status to be formalized, most of its outreach to date has been word-of-mouth, with Veterans Advocate/Events Coordinator Tom Brown scheduling and supporting presentations to interested groups.
The need for its’ services is great, as more and more stories about the difficulties faced by so many returning heroes become more openly discussed.
As retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General and chief executive of Horses & Heroes of Southeast Florida Frank Libutti says, “We have a great team, an honorable mission, and veterans who need our support. Connecting horses with our heroes creates a healing environment.”
For more information, contact Frank Libutti at 256-529-7642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.