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Horses find new life off the track healing veterans

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Published on Aug 14, 2014

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Tucked away on a farm in Saratoga County, is a place that's nothing short of a sanctuary. It's where warriors from the track meet the nation's warriors. The program is called Saratoga War Horse.
Saratoga War Horse uses horses, some that are off the track thoroughbreds, to help veterans who are dealing with the invisible scars of war.
The program teaches veterans from across the country how to communicate with a horse, an animal that so honestly mirrors the veteran's energy and emotion. At the start, both are unsure and untrusting. But within minutes the horse realizes he's understood that this person is speaking his language. The horse shows a sign of trust. Something about the horse's acceptance transforms the veteran.
"Whatever emotions I had, whatever I was feeling, at that time inside the ring, I was able to leave it there. I passed through the gate and I felt that I didn't have to carry it anymore," said one veteran.
CBS6 watched as similar connections were made that day with three other veterans.
"There's a lot of pain that these veterans have to find a way to let go of and this seems to be a very effective method," said Bob Nevins, the Founder of Saratoga War Horse.
Nevins is a Vietnam Veteran himself. He watched a generation of service member's battle depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide. Nevins said more needs to be done to help the next generation of veterans and stop the cycle in its tracks.
"The horse responds to that with a tremendous relief, 'oh somebody understands me.' And that's what the veteran is actually saying at the same time, 'oh someone understands me finally,'" said Nevins. "The transformation that takes place, you realize you may have just saved someone's life."
Nevins said the program doesn't claim to be therapy. It offers an experience that has helped veterans move forward with their lives.
He said that he looks forward to the day that science can explain exactly how these horses are able to help. Until then, he takes comfort in knowing lives are being impacted.
For more information, click here.

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