Project Equus

About the Program: Project Equus is slowly beginning to reach the local professional community as evident in recent referrals. Word of mouth is increasing as evident in a new client having ‘heard about us’. Project Equus is beginning to emerge as a solid method to help veterans with PTSD within our community regain their positive self-concept with veterans stating “coming here gives me purpose”. Multiple statements support the need/problem veterans encounter when traditional therapies have not reached them or assisted them in regaining a functional lifestyle. Although our current population has been relatively small the impact on the lives of our veterans has been multifaceted reaching them physically, emotional, and cognitively.

Brad’s Story

My name is Brad. I am 44 years old and am classified as 100% totally and permanently disabled by the Veterans Administration. I first heard about the Hearts & Hooves Equine Therapy program from the University of Arkansas’ Veterans department. I was referred there by my UALR psychologist. I was very curious about equine therapy. For years, I have tried many unsuccessful types of therapy, and many different medications. I have been searching for a very long time for something that would effectively help my condition. I very much want to get better, and was more than willing to try something new and unique.

I had no idea what to expect from my first equine therapy session with Frankie Stovall. I have 50 minute sessions every Monday morning from (9:00 – 9:50 A.M. I have been assigned to a giant thorough bread named Dan. There is something very powerful and moving about grooming this giant horse. I am not sure that my words can even do justice to what I am trying to communicate. Mrs. Stovall taught me how to sign in at the beginning of each session, and how to sign out at the end of each session. I am supposed to communicate my stress, pain, and motivation level at the beginning and end of each session. 

I am learning how to properly groom Dan with five different types of brushes, how to clean the bottom of his heels, and how to apply “hoof heal” to his hoof’s. I am learning how to communicate with Dan, and how to interpret his communications with me. At my latest session on Monday, Mrs. Stovall taught me equine anatomy. Mrs. Stovall brought out a stack of index cards and asked me to classify each emotion on the card as: human, horse, or both. I quickly learned that Dan and I have much more in common (emotionally) than I had previously thought. Mrs. Stovall also taught me breathing exercises to control my body and lower my heart rate. I learn more and more each session, and have found that I increasingly look forward to and enjoy each session.

Mrs. Stovall reminds me very much of author and motivational speaker, “Eckhart Tolle.” She reminds me to remember to smell Dan and stay in the present moment. The entire session (to me) is very similar to learning how to meditate, be aware of your thoughts, and find peace with the present moment. I am learning how to train and control my mind, just like a person would exercise a muscle. I have only been doing equine therapy for a short time, but I am very happy with the results. I am encouraged, and believe that this is exactly the type of therapy that helps my condition. I have every intention to continue with Mrs. Stovall as I feel better and better after every session. This type of therapy is unique to me, and I feel very fortunate to have found it. I am very grateful to Mrs. Stovall and Dan.

That’s just one story from a veteran enrolled in the Project Equus program of DVNF’s grant recipient, Hearts & Hooves. This was a meaningful grant to the organization because it boosted their overall capacity to serve veterans with PTSD. From Frankie Stovall, the director of the organization:

We are now fully funded to carry Project Equus for the next full year at beyond max capacity. We have increased from 1 participant at granting time to 6. We have increased our networking, word of mouth, and professional presence to ensure future growth. Our association with DVNF has given us validity within the VA community increases our ability to be heard and utilized as a professional modality by the medical community.