JOPLIN, Mo.—A local equine therapy program known for changing the lives of disabled children now hopes to aid veterans, thanks to assistance from Ozark Center. Magic Moments Riding Therapy and Ozark Center, the behavioral health division of Freeman Health System, are partnering with the Wounded Warrior Project to offer equine therapy to area veterans.
Long recognized as an effective treatment modality, equine therapy helps heal wounds physically and emotionally. Because of the gentle rhythm of the horse's movements, a rider who is unable to walk alone can experience a motion similar to the human gait, thereby improving flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. In the 14 years they have been in operation, Magic Moments Riding Therapy has offered its services to children confined to wheelchairs, those who suffer speech and language impediments, and those who need to improve their self-esteem, said Jeanne Brummet, Executive Director at Magic Moments Riding Therapy.
But research shows horseback riding is also therapeutic to people living with emotional wounds, such as soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The unique relationship that forms between horse and human can lead to an increase in confidence, patience, and self-esteem. Equine therapy recognizes the bond between animals and humans and the potential for emotional healing that such a relationship can foster, said Del Camp, Vice President of Clinical Operations at Ozark Center. Those suffering from PTSD are not likely to even ride a horse initially; instead exercises commonly include asking a student to approach a horse and put a halter on it.
“Just as those who have been in battle, horses rely on their senses for survival, reacting almost instinctively to emotions and perceived threats,” said Camp. “A negative emotion from a human evokes a negative emotion from the horse. Alternatively, a positive emotion from humans evokes the same in horses.”
Ozark Center therapists trained Magic Moments Riding Therapy staff on how to offer mental health first aid to soldiers suffering from PTSD. This equine therapy is now available to veterans who are members of Wounded Warriors, a government program that strives to empower and honor wounded veterans.
Brummet understands the struggles that often follow a wounded soldier. Her son, John Brummet, received a debilitating back injury while serving in Iraq nine years ago. To this day, he still struggles with the pain—a constant reminder of his sacrifice. John, now an instructor with Magic Moments, uses his experiences to help fellow veterans.
Brummet said her family wants to educate soldiers about the many options they have for help, including equine therapy. Many veterans, she said, are not aware of its benefits or that such therapy is offered in our area.
“This is something veterans are not thinking of, but the treatment is so effective,” said Brummet.
Magic Moments is a Premiere Accredited Center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH).
About Freeman Health System
Based in Joplin, Missouri, Freeman Health System is the area’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system, serving southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, and northwest Arkansas. Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services, including cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurosciences, orthopaedics, and women’s services, with more than 300 physicians representing 60 specialties. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem, or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at twitter.com/freemanceo.
About Ozark Center
An integral component of Freeman Health System based in Joplin, Missouri, Ozark Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults, and families in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the mental health needs of the community and promote awareness of mental illness in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit ozarkcenter.com or call 417.347.7600.