Operation Wild Horse Program Vision: We will take a proactive approach to significantly reducing the Veteran, Active Duty, and Military Family suicide rate by utilizing at-risk, American Mustang horses in local communities across the nation.
Operation Wild Horse Mission: To provide a safe and measurably effective Military pillar program built by a community of Veterans and Military Families, enabling a life-changing partnership between wild horses, Veterans, Military Families, and their collective support network.
Operation Wild Horse Executive Summary
Operation Wild Horse (OWH) a program of Veterans R&R 501(c)3 provides a safe community where Veterans, Active-Duty Military, and Families can build a significant Mustang/human bond that allows barriers to fall, communication to enhance, and trust to form. This approach has time and time again resulted in the formation of life-changing partnerships via: Mustang Assisted Learning (MAL), Mustang Assisted Activities (MAA), Military Service Member and Veteran Reintegration (MSMVR), Understanding Mustang Human Relationship (UMHR), and Mustang Therapeutic Riding (MTR).
After two years of planning, in conjunction with continuous program evaluation and effectiveness enhancement, OWH stepped off Phase 1 “Secure the Program” of a 7-phase approach in February of 2017. This pilot program engaged Veterans, Active-Duty Military, and Military Family members with American Mustang horses. OWH currently operates out of Bull Valley Equestrian Center in Bull Valley, IL. Phase 1 has been successfully completed and is ongoing.
Since February of 2017, OWH has enabled its community of Veterans and Military Families to build the program into what it is today. Through discussions with program participants, OWH found that many shared a consistent challenge: that many Veteran Servicing Organizations (VSO’s) were offering services described as “catch-all,” “one size fits all,” or “too corporate feeling.” Many felt this approach disregarded their individuality and differences of past service to our Country. There are certainly many similarities between Veteran experiences; however, just because one has served does not mean they all have shared the same experiences. Simply put, each Veteran is very different, has experienced unique circumstances, and they need to have a voice and be responsible for how, when, to what extent, and at what pace they seek service or help post-military. The Military, in general, is a very structured environment, and one consistent theme among Veterans is that structure is good. However, that structure must be of a nature that is no longer forced, and one in which the Veteran has a hand in creating themselves.
To ensure success and safety, OWH was tasked with creating a program that was structured, but unstructured enough to allow the individual to seek service and involvement based on what was occurring in his or her personal life and what would complement other services the Veteran may already be utilizing. In this equation, the Veteran is the unstructured variable who is encouraged to schedule their time and activities in advance but also has the opportunity to use the OWH program unscheduled if a need arises. One common example we see frequently is having a Veteran show up at the facility who has been encouraged by a spouse or loved one to “go see your horse.” This happens most often when he or she is struggling with an issue, and they see the barn as a safe space to work through whatever challenge they are facing.
The OWH curriculum consists of 6 platforms, 5 categories, and 32 services with 100’s of hands-on activities that assist with Military service-related challenges, such as, but not limited to: PTSD, TBI, moral injury, hypervigilance, transition and reintegration issues, deployment, military sexual trauma, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and relationship/communication challenges. OWH Mustang Trainers are equine experts that are responsible for providing safe activities in a calm environment and guiding the participant. The Mustangs are responsible for nonverbal education and self-discovery via body language and Mustang-human interaction. People are most impressed by what they discover themselves, and OWH has built a successful program based on these principles and understanding. With this success, OWH has not only provided thousands of sessions and helped hundreds of Veterans, Active-Duty Military, and Military Families, but it is also featured in a documentary called “The Mustangs.” This documentary offers a first-hand look into the Veteran and Military families that come through our doors and the challenges they face, while also giving a glimpse of the healing powers associated with the wild American Mustang.
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