Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center is raising money for Horses for Heroes on Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Brookstone Community Church.
Horses for Heroes is a program the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association established in 2007. It offers therapeutic horseback riding to physically, psychologically or emotionally wounded veterans.
Leeann Marrie and her husband Doug had a similar idea about a year ago and installed the program in Effingham. Marrie is the volunteer coordinator for Faith Equestrian and is now the program director of Horses for Heroes.
The first veteran rider started classes in June, and there are four on the books for September. The classes are one hour a week for 13 weeks. In class, veterans learn to groom and tack their horses, along with leading and riding a horse.
“I want what they learn and grab a hold of in therapeutic riding to go into regular life and to help them in that way,” Marrie said.
For someone bound to a wheelchair, therapeutic riding mimics walking and stimulates leg and core muscles. Psychologically, therapeutic riding can ease the mind and help someone overcome mental or emotional obstacles.
For one of the veteran riders who suffered a traumatic brain injury, the goal was to be on time for riding class and to be able to be around people.
“His friend has (said) ‘He’s different; he’s much more out of his shell; he’s talkative,’” Marrie said. “So riding has brought something out of him that was suppressed or shut down before.”
Now his goal is to be early to class.
“… And that’s what I want,” Marrie said. “He’s attempting to reach a goal, and if I can help him facilitate that in anyway, then praise God. I love it.”
Another veteran Marrie works with has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder since his stint in Vietnam 40 years ago. The first time he came out, he only groomed a horse, but after class, he told Marrie how wonderful the program is because for that hour he was at peace.
Marrie said: “What I want is for them to be able to take that peace that they have (during class) and for it to grow and to grow so that they can maintain a sense of peace when they are away from the horse.”
From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Faith Equestrian will be selling Boston butts smoked by Danny Tilton, whose daughter rides at Faith Equestrian.
They also will have barbecue dinners and chicken dinners available. Money raised will help make the Horses for Heroes program available to area veterans
Brookstone Community Church is the spiritual home for the Marrie’s and Faith Equestrian owner, Bonnie Rachel Gentry, and Marrie said they were happy to offer their campus for he event. Two therapeutic horses will be on site, along with the veteran riders and volunteers. Also on display will be the “Rolling Tribute,” a red, white and blue Volkswagen Beetle with the names of local fallen soldiers on the doors.