Slippery Rock University has received a $54,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide local veterans with recreational therapy programs at the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center.
“Once a month, veterans of all ages from the Butler VA Hospital come out and ride our horses for about an hour,” Storm Harbor Equestrian Center’s graduate assistant Kelly Goeller said. “They learn how to groom, tack up, walk around, and basic riding skills of the horses.”
Assistant Director and North American Riding for the Handicap Association (NARHA) certified instructor of the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, Jess Lowry, said the grant money will be used to expand the program. Individualized goal-directed therapy will be conducted by PATH International-certified therapeutic recreational specialists. SRU students who are passionate about working with people with disabilities and community members also volunteer and help assist the veterans, Lowry said.
The VA funding will be used to provide adaptive sports opportunities for disabled veterans and service members of the U.S. armed forces in the community.
“This program helps the veterans reintegrate back into the community by working on their social skills,” Lowry said. “We work at getting them back into everyday functioning, and the horses help break down those barriers.”
Most of the veterans have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The horses help the veterans become comfortable enough to start working around them and eventually confident to ride them, however some veterans take longer than others, Lowry said.
The equestrian center will hold a celebration on Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. to share the announcement of the grant, and to raise awareness and funds for the equestrian center.
“All of the money raised goes to the endowment and rider’s scholarship program,” Lowry said. “This helps riders who can’t afford lessons to ride for free.”