Coast Guard Veteran benefits from PTSD horse therapy

Local News

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — June is PTSD awareness month and the National Center for PTSD estimates an average of eight million adults have the disorder during a given year.

Jason Smith served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 2011 to 2006. He said during that time, things happened that left emotional scars.

“I went to boot camp, post 911 so the whole climate of the entire country changed,” Smith said. “It was a real intense time but I was happy to be able to serve my country in that capacity at that point.”

Smith said his PTSD is always present, and his nightmares are intense.

“During the next day it plays through your mind again and again, but it will dissipate eventually,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s learned how to cope with his disorder but it still catches him off guard every single day.

“On the inside, it inhibits you from being able to enjoy the little things in life,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s at the point in life where he is willing to try different forms of therapy.

A few years ago, David Trogden founded the Hope Project that focuses on veterans and those affected by war.

But PTSD isn’t just limited to war Vets., anyone can develop PTSD from a traumatic event.

Trogden said HOPE is an acronym for Healing OUR Patients with Equine. He said he used to be afraid of horses, but after spending time with him, he realized how many wonderful abilities they have.

“Like being able to read to read our body language and our facial expressions,” Trogden said. “They can even feel our heartbeat as it gets closer.”

Smith took a drive out to the therapy farm and decided to do the exercise with his girlfriend, Kristen Macomber.

He was told to chose four different things from the farm and scatter them around the field. They all represented obstacles in his life.

Macomber used her voice to guide him towards her as he led the horse to the finish line. Smith said gaining his focus was hard, but necessary.

“I had to get out of my head, focus on several different things,” Smith said, “It reminded me a lot of being part of a team.”

The Hope Project’s main focus is to help others like Smith rediscover that inner peace they once had.

Smith said the therapy really helped him and afterward, he felt better than he had in a really long time.

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