Bucks County nonprofit Shamrock Reins using horses to help veterans heal from past traumas

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Saturday, January 13, 2024
Bucks Co. nonprofit using horses to help veterans heal from traumas
Bucks County nonprofit Shamrock Reins using horses to help veterans heal from past traumas

PIPERSVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- There are many programs helping veterans who have experienced traumas, but a nonprofit in Bucks County believes some of the best healing comes from horses.

"Let's take a walk," Jim Buszka says softly to Sunny, as he leads the horse from the stable to the outdoor arena.

The Zionsville, Pennsylvania native returned from the Gulf War physically okay, but with emotional wounds.

"Some survivor's guilt, maybe some nightmares, nervousness, panic attacks," the Navy veteran says.

Seven years ago, a fellow veteran suggested he visit Shamrock Reins, which uses horses to help in recovery.

Buszka not only completed the program, he then began working with other vets there as an equine specialist.

"So, Irish is my first horse, and she started all of this," explains Janet Brennan, founder of Shamrock Reins (Special Horses Assisting with Miracles in Recovery Offering Comfort and Kindness).

Brennan got the idea for Shamrock Reins when she was an E-R trauma nurse.

"My father's a Vietnam veteran," she notes. "Horses mirror your emotions. So, simply put, if you're anxious, the horse will be anxious. If you're calm, the horse will be calm."

In therapy sessions, veterans and first responders navigate horses through obstacles representing their daily challenges.

"It could represent a trauma. It could represent, you know, grief," Brennan says.

Learning to handle the 1000 lb. horse through the obstacles becomes a mission - something veterans miss outside the military. Through it, they learn to recognize and adjust unhealthy behavior.

"It gives you coping skills and you learn how to calm your inner self," says Buszka.

After one session, there's a 40% reduction in symptoms. After eight weeks, there's a 90% reduction.

Eddie Gilliard, a Purple Heart Vietnam vet, says it's done what other programs couldn't.

"I feel like I'm in a different world," he says. "Anything that bothers me is left behind."

And for their service, Shamrock Reins and the other groups profiled in Voices of Veterans are receiving passes to the Auto Show and Black Tie Tailgate from the Tri-State Buick GMC Dealers.

"Our veterans have done so much for our local communities and our nation that we really want to work to give something back," notes Patrick Duffy, President of the Tri-State Buick GMC Dealers.

Duffy is a veteran himself.

Visit 6abc.com/voicesofveteransto learn more about these organizations - and remember to thank a veteran for their sacrifice.