Wounded veterans participate in our Wild Horse Warrior Boot Camp, this unique equine healing program brings veterans coming home from deployment with physical, mental and emotional wounds to our rescue ranch for four days to find healing in the act of gentling wild horses. As the wild mustangs become gentled by the Warriors, the Warriors themselves also become “gentled”, finding new purpose and gaining insight into how to begin to heal from their trauma.
This is from one of our participants:
My name is Xayvier. I am OIF/OIF Combat Army Veteran. I had the honor of serving embedded with the 1st Marine Division. I served in the initial invasion of Iraq assigned to a joint special task force.
After serving my country honorably and faithfully and suffering from multiple service connected injuries: The army described me, in my MED board, as "Broken and no longer any use to the Military Armed Forces and that an immediate discharge was the best recommendation." Although, I had received two medals of Valor and was honorably discharged, I believed that I was "broken" every day of my life and continue till this day, based on that one statement. Out of the darkness of PTSD, anxiety and depression, exacerbated by a loss purpose, I was given a priceless gift from a program called wild horse warrior boot camp. Lifesavers Wild Horse Warrior Boot Camp has given me a new breath. As if I had been revived from the very grasp of defeat.
During my tour I experienced things that would blacken the heart of any normal human being. Exposed to live fire combat, I returned with severe injuries involving my whole person from head to toe, inside and out. I have struggled with acclimating to civilian life with PTSD, post concussive syndrome TBI, T12 fracture, bilateral hip fractures leaving me in a wheelchair for 3 years and more. The more being, a visceral amount of fear and vulnerability and no sense of purpose. To address the severe emotional and physical pain I have experienced, as well numerous on going physical ailments. I have been prescribed medication that damages my brain and body, with the added insult of not really helping me with the feelings of loss, hopelessness and survivor's guilt. I am not a quitter, and I never really wanted to give up, only to escape from the pain of my memories. The physical and emotional pain I have been living with since my return from service is overwhelming and at times there seemed like no better choice other than giving up on life. So I spent months upon months, years upon years, locked inside of my home, in physical and emotional agony.
That is until I found Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. They offer a program called Wild Horse Warrior Boot Camp. Where Warriors like myself have the opportunity to connect with a wild horse on a personal level. We call it “gentling”. When I first came to the wild horse program I had no real hope that anything would change for me, but because I’ve been searching for something that can help me, I was willing to try. I have suffered my entire life with a surreal awareness of my pain and circumstances, so I was willing and trying everything, but nothing had seemed to work. I decided to give it a chance, with no real expectations of success, but feeling it couldn't make things any worse.
But what happened changed my life immediately. I was introduced to a wild horse that had no human relationship before me. I was taught how to quiet myself, and open my heart so the horse could trust me. In doing that I had to expose my vulnerability, which I have not allowed myself to do since serving my county. But I had to – because the horse needed me to. And when I did – so did the horse. It was an amazing thing that is hard to describe – you really have to experience it yourself – but something changed inside me when I was alone with that horse and we were communicating on a spiritual level; our inner most sacred parts of our hearts were present. We both got to tap into the vulnerable innocent part of ourselves usually trapped under fear, anxiety, and anger, over what has happened and might happen to us. The bond forged did not just promote healing in the horse, but healing in me as well. For a time, the heat doesn't make me think of the Iraqi deserts, a loud noise doesn't make either of us jump. In the moment we are neither anxious nor skittish. We are together, safe and at peace.
When I am with a horse nothing else matters. I don’t think about my trauma. My focus is on the horse and what it needs. Gentling a wild horse is a purposeful process that demands my full attention and complete honesty. Horses look for leadership and to truly be a leader I need to promote confidence and a pure intention. I can fool my self-contained world. Perhaps even fool the people around me all day long, but I can’t fool a horse into thinking I am trustworthy and safe, if I don’t actually believe it too. They don’t know anything about me, they don’t care about my past or my injuries – they just want me to be with someone they can trust and someone who will protect them. So I really have to be my best self and be present in the moment. And when it’s over for the day – I can build on that foundation of inner calm. I take all that peace and trust and open heartedness back home with me. My family will tell you that I am a changed person since finding this program.
Ever since my first time at Wild Horse Warrior Boot Camp, I have found a stronger will to live my life in a purposeful manner, not just survive, but thrive. Having found out that even though I am alone in that round pin with such a spiritual emotional experience makes me present and at peace... l am safe. I am ok and that exposure has now even created joy in life. Now, I want to help other Warriors, who are not getting the support and resources they need, get into this program, because I know it will save lives.
It is reported, every 65 minutes a war veteran tragically succumbs to their circumstances, because they do not have the skills to cope, and commits suicide. Active duty soldiers are falling to suicide at a rate of almost one soldier per day. The government is not offering the right kind of support. Just giving us drugs to numb the pain and dull the senses is not the right answer. We need something else and it needs to reach deep into our psyches and our hearts. Wild Horse Warrior Boot Camp is a program like that.
The God’s honest truth is if I hadn’t gone through this program with Lifesavers’ horses... I wouldn’t be able to tell my story. I would have been another number – a statistic – or a shut in, never experiencing the joys of life and the country wouldn’t even have noticed.
Lifesavers Wild Horse Warrior Boot Camp saves lives...it saved mine!