Peace on the ranch for veterans

One of the participants in the Horses for Warriors program, which caters to veterans in need of therapy, brushes Pete on Thursday.

Hollister’s Richard Herrera beamed as he stroked his chosen horse “Jerry” with a brush. Herrera, a veteran of the first Gulf War, was at peace at Wood Myst Farm on a recent Thursday.
Note: This is part of the annual Pride section included with this week’s Free Lance.
Hollister’s Richard Herrera beamed as he stroked his chosen horse “Jerry” with a brush. Herrera, a veteran of the first Gulf War, was at peace at Wood Myst Farm on a recent Thursday.
Herrera was there as part of a weekly DreamPower Horsemanship program called Horses for Heroes, targeted at veterans who could benefit from a therapy that is far from a couch or office. Herrera and other area veterans meet at the ranch, greet their horses, meet in a circle to open up with one another, and go about grooming designated animals. DreamPower partnered Herrera with Jerry, donated by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014 after being chased by a mountain lion and getting his hind leg injured. He also works alongside volunteer trainer Shelly Cedars.
“He’s a great therapy horse,” Cedars said at the stable.
Part of the calming factor for Herrera is just being on the ranch, he said.
“I’m going to have to get a cowboy hat and boots,” he said.
Horses for Heroes is among the slew of programs offered by DreamPower Horsemanship, located on the Wood Myst Ranch off Ferguson Road near Pacheco Pass. DreamPower, a nonprofit founded in 2002, leases 10 acres and maintains stables for its 17 horses tagged with names like Jerry, Pete, Ginger and Tulips. Programs range from those offered for veterans scarred by war to others for varying disabled residents.
Before the veterans bond with their respective horses, they bond with one another while seated on chairs set up in a circle.
They talk about everything from their outside, everyday problems to their relationships with the program’s horses. Veterans often struggle with the aftermath of their combat experiences. Horse therapy is a beneficial way to deal with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
For Herrera, grooming the horse is a relaxing activity in its own right, especially since he was never around horses before the Heroes program. At the ranch, he brushed Jerry as he worked his way toward hopefully getting to ride his new friend before finishing the seven-week program.
“I’m taking that time to bond,” he said. I” know my horse has to trust me.”
He went on, calmed by his surroundings: “You just want to be gentle.”
What is Horses for Heroes?
Veterans and their families receive hope and learn stress management skills in the company of wonderful horses and caring, licensed psychotherapists. Horses for Heroes is a program for veterans of the armed forces and their spouses and children. Support groups for vets, groups for children of deployed soldiers and couples’ communication workshops for vets and their spouses are all a part of Horses for Heroes. For a schedule and more information, contact DreamPower and ask about Horses for Heroes.

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