Unaddressed behavioral health issues among veterans have created devastating repercussions for our society. The topic has become a massive focus for Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services as the nation manages a jaw-dropping suicide rate—roughly 22 veterans take their lives each day after returning from combat.
Considering these sad statistics, the growing field of Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) has shown great promise as an intervention for treating veterans suffering from nightmares, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, and other debilitating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
No stranger to the negative impacts of combat-related stress as well as the power of horses in facilitated healing is Cristi Silverberg-Rose, the founder of Prescott Arizona-based nonprofit, Bethany’s Gait Ranch. The organization exists to rescue, rehabilitate, and restore the lives of veterans, first responders, their families, and horses in need through EFP, retreats, and mentorship.
Bethany’s Gait programming creates experiences for riders to tap into their inner peace through a mutually beneficial connection with horses. In the quiet spaces of exchanged trust, individuals unlock personal transformation while also witnessing a change in their horses; many come to the program from abusive backgrounds.
Last year, through the support of donors to Northern Arizona Healthcare Foundation, Bethany’s Gait Ranch received grant funding to increase the capacity of care for their needed services. Through this grant, the organization is connecting more veterans to the therapeutic and healing power of horses.
In Arizona, the veteran suicide rate is significantly higher than the national veteran suicide rate.*
* Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Veteran Kevin Zieran, daughter Johanna, and Dakota the horse
“I have had the opportunity to work through some emotions associated with PTSD, anxiety, and severe depression and now know how important it is to remain calm and focused on the task at hand. This has allowed me to regain some control of the fear response of trying new things.”
US Army veteran
Operation Iraqi Freedom /Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)