Helping veterans

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:32 PM

With the help of a $5,000 grant from Home Depot, Outside In, in Grand Haven Township, is one step closer to opening a program for helping veterans, active service members and families cope with post traumatic stress disorder for equine assisted psychotherapy.

Navy veteran Adam Shumaker along with local veterans and Navy Sea Cadets, helped install 2,000 square feet of wooden fencing around three or four acres on the property last weekend.

Shumaker, 33, said the program is huge for the community.

"This could save lives," he said.

Jennifer McVoy, executive director and psychotherapist, of Outside In, said they wanted to provide the program because the need for different forms of therapy will continue to increase.

While some may find traditional therapy intimidating, working this horses is a non-confrontational style of therapy.

When someone goes through a traumatic event, that gets stuck into a part of the brain that doesn't know a concept of time, McVoy said.

McVoy said a horse's natural gait provides bilateral stimulation which helps with overcoming and working through post traumatic stress disorder.

In some settings, families will work together to get a horse through an obstacle course or over a jump without touching the horse.

McVoy said horses are in-tune with emotions and they will portray those around them so if the family becomes frustrated, the horse will too.

The family must work together and find other way of overcoming their struggles to compete the task.

"The horse is really the therapist," she said.

The new program and community coming together meant a lot to Garrett Veihl.

The Grand Haven resident served in the Navy for just less than 21 years.

"When people on the outside (non-military people) the family want to help, that's heartwarming," Veihl said.

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