TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Veteran’s Club welcomed returning and new veterans for their first equine therapy session of the year on Saturday.
The suicide rate among veterans is 1.5 times the national average with approximately 20 veterans dying by suicide daily, according to the Department for Veteran Affairs.
The Veteran’s Club is an organization that provides resources to Kentucky veterans to help improve their mental health and form a community after they return from the battlefield.
“I don't want a single soul to ever think that they can't get the help that they need or that they're not good enough or that they're broken. We're not broken. We just need a little help. We just need a hand up, and that's what we try to accomplish here,” said Veteran’s Club President Jeremy Harrell.
Navy veteran Thomas Rierdon has been attending the Veteran’s Club equine therapy sessions since they were founded in 2017.
“Three years ago, I was a recluse. I didn’t leave my house,” Rierdon said. “I’ve learned not to live in the past, but to strive for the future.”
Rierdon enjoys working with the horses during the program, but he said the most important part for him is he can lean on a group of people who understand the toll military service can take on a person’s mental health.
“I don't have to worry about how I say something. I don't have to worry about my actions. I don't even have to worry about if something upsets me so much where I shed a tear because of some of the stuff I saw as a combat medic because they've been there, they've seen it, they've been through it,” Rierdon said.
The equine therapy program is hosted on the Savvywinds Horsemanship Ranch in Taylorsville, Ky. Sessions are held throughout the months on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
During the equine therapy sessions, veterans work in pairs to groom and interact with the ranch’s horses. Harrell is present during the meetings to guide group discussions and activities.
“Our goal is to do better than we did last year and to be able to reach more veterans,” Harrell said. “We want to make sure every veteran in the state and beyond knows that we will walk with them through anything. We will battle in the trenches to ensure that they're healthy and that they're enjoying their life.”
If you would like to make an appointment to participate in the equine therapy program, you can do so by contacting the Veteran’s Club through their website.