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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Kaye

Operation Equine: Harnessing the Healing Power of Horses for Military Service Members, Veterans, First Responders, and Their Families

Operation Equine offers transformative equine assisted therapy experiences tailored specifically for military service members, veterans, first responders, and their families, as well as for organizations who also serve our country’s Warriors and Protectors.

Founded on the belief in every human’s innate capacity for resilience, and the understanding of the profound healing bond between humans and horses, Operation Equine operates from a holistic approach, combining the naturally curious, powerful, and relational personalities of horses with evidence-based therapeutic techniques. Our team comprises experienced mental health therapists, certified equine specialists, and our multifaceted equine partners, providing a safe and non-judgmental environment for all participants.

How Operation Equine Works

Building trust is a foundational aspect of our program, mirroring the process of earning a horse's trust. By learning how to calm their nervous systems using mindful breathing and grounding techniques, and by practicing patience and the power of observation, participants learn to establish connections with their equine partners, fostering an environment of honest communication and relationship-building, encouraging them to embody what it truly means to feel present in the here-and-now.

Most sessions include ground-based activities such as grooming, leading, groundwork exercises, and experiential exercises specifically designed for building self-confidence, improving communication skills, and encouraging emotional regulation, fostering a sense of empowerment and connection: both individually and with their families.

For those grappling with the challenges of post-traumatic stress, moral injury, depression, anxiety, military sexual trauma, transition stress, and family challenges, the therapeutic presence of horses provides a calming and grounding influence, allowing participants to learn and/or regain a sense of agency within themselves, develop healthier coping strategies, and forge a renewed sense of purpose for themselves and for their families in a therapeutic, non-clinical environment.

Our signature program - The WARRIOR Pack Trip - incorporates the best of what we do on the ground with the experiential nature of wilderness therapy by hiring professional outfitters to take small groups of Veterans out on horseback, culminating in an integrative 6-day experience. This program is intended to not only partner with our participants to help them set and reach their personal goals, but also to provide the teamwork, camaraderie, and renewed sense of purpose that they yearn for.

By harnessing the innate wisdom, sensitivity, and relational nature of horses, Operation Equine

offers the unwavering support of a community dedicated to our participants’ ultimate well-being,

providing sanctuary where wounds are transformed into sources of strength, self-acceptance, and resilience.

Through our innovative approach and our culturally competent providers, we honor the courage, the passion, the creativity, and natural leadership of military service members, veterans, first responders, and their families, reminding them of a brighter future filled with more possibility, self-forgiveness, and renewed purpose.

Equine-assisted therapy resonates deeply with veterans for several reasons:

  1. Nonverbal Communication: Veterans often struggle to verbalize their experiences and emotions, especially those related to trauma. Horses communicate primarily through body language, offering a nonverbal avenue for veterans to express themselves and feel understood without the pressure of articulating their thoughts.

  2. Trust and Agency: Veterans who have experienced trauma may struggle with issues of trust and self-regulation. Working with horses requires building trust and mutual respect, allowing veterans to regain a sense of agency in their interactions. As they develop a bond with their equine partners, veterans experience a shift in perspective, realizing that trust can be earned and agency over oneself can be regained.

  3. Presence and Mindfulness: Horses are inherently present creatures, attuned to their surroundings and the emotions of those around them. Through interacting with horses, veterans learn to be present in the moment, practicing mindfulness and grounding techniques that help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, “checking out,” and hyperarousal.

  4. Empowerment and Self-Reflection: Equine-assisted activities often involve setting and achieving goals, whether it's guiding a horse through an obstacle course or building a relationship through grooming. These accomplishments foster a sense of empowerment and self-efficacy, allowing veterans to see their strengths and capabilities in action. Additionally, horses are highly perceptive animals that reflect back the emotions and behaviors of those around them. Through observing the responses of their equine partners, veterans gain insight into their own emotions and behaviors, facilitating self-awareness and self-reflection.

  5. Connection and Community: It’s about community: Military Service Members operate in “units,” horses operate in a herd. Equine-assisted therapy provides a unique opportunity for veterans to connect with others who share similar experiences. Group sessions foster camaraderie and support, creating a sense of belonging and community that is crucial for healing and recovery. The shared bond of working with horses and with each other transcends verbal communication, creating a space where veterans can feel more connected, less “on guard,” and better understood.

Annual Barnyard Julilee!

Help to support our Military Service Members, Veterans, and their families through the unique power of working with horses.

Save the date for Wednesday, September 18 to celebrate Operation Equine's 5-year anniversary and annual Barnyard Jubilee! Follow us on Facebook for tickets and more information as it becomes available.

2023 Hero Awards Winner - Community, Michelle Kaye & Opertion Equine


EquuStyle Art & Travel magazine thanks Michelle Kaye, Founder and Executive Director, Operation Equine for writing an excellent article and sharing photographs. Our sincere thanks to everyone involved in Operation Equine for providing equine-assisted services for Active Military Members, Veterans, First Responders, and thier families.

All images Copyright Operation Equine -all rights reserved. Cannot be reproduced for any purpose without permission from Operation Equine.


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