Tuesday, August 30, 2017 started out as a typical cool and foggy morning in Orinda. But, it was soon evident to the horses that this morning was different than most quiet days at Xenophon where not much happens before the afternoon. Activity began with volunteers and staff arriving, augmented by early morning turn-outs for the equines, and finally the arrival of a group of 8 special individuals.
The day marked the beginning of a pilot program for veterans from the Martinez Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital. The program provides equine-assisted therapy to veterans with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. The goal of the program is to provide relief of symptoms and/or restore function due to disease, illness or injury. Through their work with the horses, the hope is for the vets to improve their physical, psychological, social and emotional growth. Activities will include grooming, leading, round pen work and interaction, as well as learning basic and intermediate horse training skills.
Months ago, Xenophon was contacted by a representative from the Martinez VA, looking for a center to provide equine-assisted therapies to their veterans. While this fell outside of Xenophon’s usual paradigm, we have been looking for opportunities to use our beautiful center in the morning hours. While we do not have the size nor scope of herd to provide riding programs for adults, there is great work that can be done through un-mounted interactions with equines. Our board of directors felt that since we had the facilities and expertise to offer this opportunity, that we should meet this need. One of our Registered Therapeutic Riding instructors, Haley Mathews, is leading the program. Haley attended an intense conference in Chicago, Illinois, designed to assist centers in offering effective and beneficial programs to vets. She is now applying her gained expertise to this Tuesday morning program. The program will run through the end of the year, and hopefully, if successful, carry into 2017 as well.