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Horses being used to heal wounds, treat vets with PTSD

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, more than 300,000 men and women who return home from war suffer from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. News 18’s Krista Henery visited a White County farm where horses are helping these heroes heal wounds.

Justin Howton spent eight years serving in Iraq.

“For me it was just about service to my country,” Howton said.

It’s often difficult for Howton to describe what it was truly like while he was overseas.

“You can train all you want,” Howton explained. “But when you go to combat, it’s a different experience. There are certain things that happen in combat that you just can’t train for. No matter how real training may be, when the real thing happens, you’re not prepared for it.”

Like many soldiers who come home from war, Howton said he now suffers from PTSD. It’s something he said isn’t easy to live with.

“The aftermath of it all can be rough, and it could come back at any time when you’re not prepared,” Howton said. “Certain noises and certain things can happen where something triggers. Anything can happen. A car can backfire or just different types of noises or screams.”

However, Howton has turned to an alternate form of therapy through his healing process. He’s getting help from a horse named CoCoa.

“She’s a big girl, and I was little bit worried about it. But she’s a sweetheart,” Howton said.

The time he spends with CoCoa is all part of the mission at the Therapeion Therapeutic Riding Center in Brookston.

Libby-Marks Shepard started the center in 2007. She said she wanted to serve the community by offering specially designed riding classes tailored to meet the need of each individual rider – whether they’re dealing with physical, emotional, behavioral or cognitive issues.

“All of our riders are learning to bond with the animal and learning nonverbal communication,” Marks-Shepard said. “They learn grooming, tacking and riding activities.”

“It’s just really calming out here,” Howton explained.”

I just never thought it would be something that would be that simple to just come out here and do something like this to help with a problem that a lot of us deal with.”Click here for more information on how to help the center win a horse in order to expand their services.