My daughter-in-law, Megan MacNichol, gave me a video that touched my heart. Called RIDING MY WAY BACK it’s the story of one stable that is helping soldiers return to life after war. Staff Sergeant Aaron Heliker is featured and Fred is the name of the horse who saved him. Aaron returned from several deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was on many medications that were not helping. He was suicidal. At this stable he was introduced to Fred, a huge white horse, and learned about mutual trust by working with him.
There is something about horses, something real and huge and comforting. I had horses in my early life when I lived in Connecticut and those horses fed my soul; I love their scent, their sounds, their huge and soulful eyes and their prickly but soft mouths. I lived in India for nine months and while there rode quite often on horses tended by the Muslim community. These horses all had ears that touched tip to tip. Peculiar. When riding, their touching ears made a circle to look through.
I have felt the comfort of listening to a horse eating and felt the warmth of his body as I lean on him. There is no greater comfort if you love horses.
Now, thanks to P.A.T.H., (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship), and other organizations, horses and their ability to heal are being used to help our soldiers as well as others with mental illnesses.
My daughter-in-law has been certified by P.A.T.H. and works for Eagle Mount, an organization that provides for the under developed in our community. Megan works with clients, putting them with horses, teaching them how to ride or simply allowing them to touch a horse. P.A.T.H. trains people how to use horses to help not only the mentally ill and veterans with TBI and PTSD but people with Downs Syndrome, autistic children and children and adults who suffer from muscular dystrophy and other crippling conditions.
In RIDING MY WAY BACK we see Aaron and Fred together. Aaron says that he was considered the class clown and Fred is like the class clown too. The woman at this stable, who is in charge of partnering the veteran with a horse, could see how Aaron and Fred were alike. Then, as Aaron began to hang out with Fred every day, as Aaron began to love Fred and trust Fred, we see that Aaron is no longer alone with his pain.
Aaron didn’t give up his commitment to suicide until he began spending more and more time with Fred. Their relationship is nothing but transformative.
The woman who runs the stable called Aaron every day to get him to come in to work with Fred. Aaron finally gave her his suicide letter and that was the end of it. Now Aaron is helping other veterans like himself.
I have my tiny Emotional Support Service Dog named Snitz. I began traveling with her when she was only four years old. She helped me so much when I was beginning to come out into the world with BringChange2Mind. Now Snitz is older and not so great on the road. She is so exhausted by the time we get home I feel cruel to take her. I’m letting her stay home now because I really don’t need her to lead the way any more. Snitz and Fred, animals who won the hearts of two of us, two who needed help. Thanks to them and to all the other animals who allow us to live up to our potential because of their love and devotion to our well-being.