BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) – The tranquil Shepard Meadows is where the goats, donkeys, horses are free to roam and play.
It’s where Marine Veteran Rick Scarola, “Come on, you’ve got some carrots in here today,” lassoes the peace he craves, coping with Brain Traumatic Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Hours spent here in support groups and one on one time with the horses have led to new beginnings.
“There’s always going to be bad times, bad days,” Rick said. “But these guys definitely have helped me work through them and kind of realize there are coping skills and ways to come out of your stress or anxiety or something when its got you locked up like that.”
Steadfast support for the men and women who have served in the military is what led to the birth of this Equine Therapy in Bristol.
“Bristol has the unofficial title of having the largest concentration of veterans within the State of Connecticut per population,” said Patrick Nelligan with the Bristol Veterans Council.
He says medication has been too easy to prescribe for those struggling, and is now leading the grassroots push to get equine therapy covered by insurance.
Nelligan, who still serves in the military, says
“What equine therapy has done for our graduates is it’s given them not only what should have been given to them a long time ago, but the opportunity to now pay it forward,” said Nelligan, who still serves in the military. “Our veterans are coming back and now they’re battle buddies who are going through it next so we have a self prescribing, self-perpetuating program for the future.”
Cathy Languerand is the resident horse and veteran whisperer.
“Every time a veteran comes in, they are assessing from the parking lot, where’s my safety zone, do I feel safe here?,” she said.
The serenity she stresses, bridges the gap of anxiety and uncertainty.
“If you show them this open space, where the horses are calm and relaxed and have freedom, then they are like wow, I think I need to be with them,” said Languerand.
Hundreds of people across the country have benefited from similar programs.
“So we are a looking for them one more time,” said Patrick, “to work as an army to start the push forward to get the benefits they deserve with equine therapy.”
One loud voice for the brave and deserving.
The equine therapy is a six-week program and the Bristol Veterans Council provides the scholarships for the men and women who attend.
For more information on how you can help, call 860-314-0007 or log onto www.shepardmeadows.org.