Horses for heroes in Delaware

June 25, 2008 3:20:45 PM PDT
When veterans return home from war, all too often the transition back to a normal life can be an emotional battle in itself. However, there's a program in Delaware that's providing therapy in a different way, by riding off into the sunset, so to speak. Every week 60-year-old Michael Harmon looks forward to riding here at Carousel Park and Equestrian Center.

"I'd rather be no other place," Harmon said.

Thanks to the program Horses for Heroes Michael, a Vietnam veteran, gets to enjoy his favorite past time. He's one of a few veterans all with various disabilities living at the nearby VA Hospital, who gets a chance to heal through riding.

"Most disabilities that these guys suffer from range form a form of cancer, CVAs or strokes, and Multiple sclerosis. Usually with those disabilities, depression is pretty much a secondary factor in it," Rose Miggin of the Veteran's Hospital said.

In addition to helping emotionally, riding and interacting with these tender animals is great physical therapy.

"When they're riding, the horse moves in a similar manner of a human walking, so they get that stimulation, when a lot of times they're in wheelchairs," Carly Thompson of Horses for Heroes said.

The Horses for Heroes program is a fairly new national program. It came to Delaware just five weeks ago. Veterans get the chance to get two hour riding sessions once a week.

For Michael Harmon this experience is especially rewarding because therapeutic riding is something he now shares with his young son who died recently from a brain disorder.

"He just had a heroic life," Harmon said.

These veterans have also lived a heroic life. Administrators hope to expand the program over the next few years for veterans just returning from war.