First Oklahoma Veterans Graduate From Therapeutic Riding Program

Rick Wells, News on 6

There are therapeutic riding programs to help with all sorts of mental and physical disabilities, so one was created specifically for veterans.

Tuesday was graduation day for the first class of the Hooves on the Ground program at the Right Path Riding Academy in Drumright.

The eight veterans in the class are dealing with something - PTSD or a physical disability - and each one has a veteran mentor. The program is designed to get them back on the right path.

Brian Davis said it starts with the basics.

"You don't just hop on a horse, you’ve got to build a relationship," he said.

Davis is a veteran of the first Gulf War, Desert Shield, and Desert Storm. He's been fighting his demons since he came home in 1991. This program, he said, has given him his life back.

"It saved my marriage. My kids didn’t want nothing to do with…I had some real issues, and it’s turned everything around. I've got a grandson, now I'm getting to enjoy. My kids are back with me," he said.

Ralph Henderson is a Vietnam veteran. He came home with PTSD before we knew to call it that. He worked with horses before the war and went back to what he knew.

"I started working with horses again, it got me through it," Henderson said.

He's always believed a program like this could help other veterans, so he contacted the VA locally and the folks at Right Path Academy.

Ten weeks ago they began, and Tuesday was graduation, complete with certificates and a quilt from the Quilts of Valor organization.

Henderson said, "Actually, we have no therapists in this program. The horses are the therapists for the veterans."

There's another session beginning in February.

If you are a veteran or know a vet who might benefit from the program, you can contact the Veterans Administration and ask about Hooves on the Ground.