(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Ordinary citizens can’t imagine the mental baggage that combat veterans bring home with them from war. To help them cope, a La Porte County organization is offering a special kind of therapy. Anam Cara uses horses to get to the heart of what’s troubling someone, especially combat veterans, and their families, who are struggling to keep their emotions in check.
Stacey Garcelon is the program’s founder and director. “We provide equine assisted psychotherapy for veterans,” she says. “The group that we’re doing through the VA is focused on helping veterans manage intense emotions, specifically anger, but also anxiety, depression, that sort of thing. It’s a twelve-week program that works with a therapist, an equine specialist, and horses.”
The key to the program is using horses to connect with people and break down emotional barriers. “It creates an environment that’s emotionally safe,” she says. “What ends up happening is that they can be present in the moment and have that relationship with the horse. And then they can learn to trust themselves again, to trust their bodies again, to trust their emotions again, and to trust that they’ll be able to handle whatever comes.”
Garcelon says that horses have an uncanny ability to sense human emotions. "It is remarkable; it’s absolutely astonishing,” she says. “Because horses are prey animals, their very survival is based on being able to read their surroundings, and veterans relate to that.”
Participants are not required to talk about their emotions. At the very least, they can find some comfort in the interaction. But usually, Garcon says, the encounter leads to better self-awareness for clients and an openness to facing their problems.
Anam Cara’s equine therapy is available to veterans and their families through funding by the Veterans’ Administration. They also do similar therapy for other individuals and groups. On the third Friday of every month, Anam Cara welcomes all military members, past and present, as well as first responders, for a little time with the horses. “It’s not therapy; it’s not anything other than to hang out with other veterans and first responders and the horses,” Garcelon says.
Anam Cara is located on 1000 North, near Rolling Prairie.