Our Veterans, More Than A Battle

Horses That Heal/Willow Equine is our November Outstanding Non-Profit. We have been introduced to the concept of equine-assisted therapy, the Eagala Model, and an article about Veterans Day. Read on to learn more about the battles our veterans face at home. —EH Stafford, Managing Editor





More Than a Battle


A simple statement but hidden within are the struggles for our veterans. Their ultimate battle was preparing for war. Brave men and women, messengers of the ideals of democracy. They are committed to serve the country.


Returning home

Veterans present a facade upon their return home. Survival was the keynote of their day. The stoic presence masks a plethora of issues. Some are physical and easily defined. Hidden within are the physiological battles. These effects are the long-lasting battles. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), there are three primary mental health concerns.



Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common mental health result of war. It is an over-expression of normal physiological processes. Our veterans are in a fight/flight reaction mode. It is a flood of hormones that set the body on high alert. The result of that alert is being ready to fight or to run. These responses can be life saving factors. In civilian life, it is a challenge not to react. People do not have to be deployed to suffer from PTSD.


Depression is intense sadness or helplessness. Depression is a serious illness. It is treatable with correct diagnosis and support. Veterans may lose interest in activities they once loved. Depression can create feelings of guilt and avoidance. It affects any race, gender, and age.


Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) was unheard of just a few years ago. It occurs when the head receives sudden trauma disrupting brain function. In the past, most with a TBI did not survive. Modern medicine and improved protection has increased the survival rate. There are varying degrees of TBIs – mild (concussion) to severe (totally debilitating). Every case being different.


Mental illness and suicide

Nearly one in five veterans are living with mental illness. Roughly 22 veterans are dying per day by suicide. Mental health treatment can be a complicated journey. A veteran’s mental health is even more complicated due to stigma. They find it difficult to admit there is a problem. Secondly, finding the proper support can be a daunting task. The journey is unique for everyone as there are copious options.


Where do we begin?

How do we start? Start by removing the stigma around mental health. We need to support and hold conversations. There are support groups and individual/family therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that enables healing from the emotional distress caused by trauma. Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is a non-traditional approach. In a veteran’s words:


“For someone in the military like me, it’s hard to swallow my pride and ask for help. This was a safe environment to open up in. Sometimes the horses talked for me and helped show me the path to save my marriage.”  ~ Active Duty Veteran


America’s veterans are an extraordinary and diverse population. Each military branch, each wartime era, and each experience is unique. Veterans recognize and want to solve their personal battles. Mental health challenges are a very real problem, one they should not battle alone.



Katie Stankiewicz has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She founded Willow Equine, in 2012, which offers equine-assisted personal development in Mooresville, NC. Her mission is to enlighten clients to their innate abilities. Whether it’s taking the lead in their own health or focusing on work at their company, they re-energize themselves through self-discovery and horses. They are able to transform their struggles into authentic successes, and it becomes a part of their overall wellness plan and life-coping strategies. To make a donation, please visit http://horsesheal.com/donate/




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