Summit Equestrian Center offers equine therapy to veterans

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A local horse farm is offering a special kind of therapy for veterans who suffer from conditions like PTSD and anxiety.

Summit Equestrian Center, located on the northwest side of Fort Wayne off Dupont Road, launched an equine therapy program for veterans about a year ago.

Executive Director Allison Wheaton says there are about eight veterans currently participating in the program.

One local veteran who is a part of the program, Gary Davis, said equine therapy helped turn his life around.

Davis spent four years in the Marine Corps as a Scout Sniper and completed multiple tours around the world. When he completed his service, he said it was difficult for him to transition back to civilian life.

“When I first got out I did not tell a soul,” Davis said. “I kept all that information to myself until I hit rock bottom. And when I hit rock bottom, I had to turn myself around otherwise I was going to do something about it.”

Davis reached out the VA for help and they connected him to Summit Equestrian Center for equine therapy. During his sessions as Summit, Davis cares for the horses, grooms them and exercises them from the ground.

Some of the horses as Summit have been rescued from abusive situations, and the veterans work to help them get over their fears. They also help with various repairs and maintenance around the facility.

Davis says when he works with the horses his anger and anxiety melt away. The horses, he says, can sense emotion.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. It helps me to stay in the here and now,” Davis said. “Instead of being vigilant, being hyper alert… it’s wonderful.”

His wife, Bonnie Davis, has seen a marked improvement in Gary since he started the equine therapy.

“It has made a difference in his mood and it’s made a difference in his sense of purpose,” Bonnie said. “It’s calming for him.”

Davis wants to encourage other veterans to reach out if they need help. Wheaton says veterans interested in equine therapy do not need to have previous horse experience. She says the program can be tailored to their needs.

She hopes to expand the program through grants and fundraisers. Her next goal is to acquire several wild mustangs, in addition to the one she already has, for veterans to tame.

If you are interested in the equine therapy program at Summit, you can visit their website, www.summitequestrian.org.

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