Helping veterans heal through horse therapy

Veterans Voices

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Western New York non-profit is helping those who served our country heal one horse experience at a time. National Equine Institute of Growth Through Healing, also known as “N.E.I.G.H,” offers several free therapy programs for veterans.

NEIGH founder Dawn Samuelson says horses have a unique way of sensing and mimicking human’s behavior and emotions. And that lets them connect with and heal those who are struggling.

“The horse is a therapist for them and I pretty much am the translator,” said Samuelson. “We teach the client to be able to look at their own emotional coat and the horse becomes a mirror of that emotional coat. We start to identify some of the things going on with ourselves and give them tools and strategies to work through that,” she said.

Army Veteran Brian DiFonzo says the NEIGH program has helped him immensely. “I was in a dark place for a long time and the NEIGH program, it was just like something got lifted off of your chest,” said DiFonzo. “I never faced that emotional coat that I had from my traumas and working with these beautiful creatures, they aren’t judgmental.”

DiFonzo and the horses have developed an amazing bond and trust. Now he wants to get the word out to fellow veterans to help them, too. “I would love for every vet to go through it because it’s life-changing,” he said.

“To be able to connect with the horses has been something that you just can’t reach inside four walls with a desk,” said VA Recreation Therapy Supervisor, Pamela Kaznowski. “It’s just an amazing program.”

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