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'Horses Help Heroes' at Ebb Tide Stables in Gambrills; Program offers veterans a range of services
Capital - 7/17/2017
On a quiet Sunday, Army Lt. Col. Bill Culp spent the morning caring for horses at Ebb Tide Stables in Gambrills.
Culp is a veterinarian and a volunteer with a Crofton-based program called Horses Help Heroes.
The goal of the program, which started in late 2016, is to enrich the lives of service-connected disabled veterans, their families, or the families of services members who died on active duty, through free horse-related programming.
Horses Help Heroes offers a range of services, from simply spending time around horses to therapy and riding lessons. The charity hosts veterans from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center weekly.
The animal-human bond is a great thing for healing, Culp said.
Connecting with a horse doesn't necessarily mean a riding lesson - it can be something as simple as taking a trip out to be around the animals while taking in the view of pastures at Sunrise Farm in Gambrills, the location of Ebb Tide Stables.
"Being out on a farm, for most people, is relaxing," Culp said.
Culp lives nearby and comes to the farm, often with his daughters, to take care of the horses used for the program. On Sundays they feed the horses, and clean up the stalls, among other jobs.
Odenton resident Christie Craven keeps two horses at the stables, and also volunteers her time for Horses Help Heroes.
She was taking care of one of her horses Sunday, and said she helps the charity with administrative work, among other things.
"It's helpful for a lot of people. I can see the difference that it's made in their lives," she said.
There's something peaceful about interacting with horses, and being able to be yourself around them, Craven said.
Horses Help Heroes was started by a wounded veteran, and the group got their 501(c)(3) status in December.
"I think we all would recognize that our veterans, and particularly service disabled veterans, when they come home, they face a lot of challenges," said Emily Timmreck-King, a member of the charity's board.
Those challenges include physical losses as well as conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression - issues that are typically silent, Timmreck-King said.
"What we've found, and what the literature supports, is working with an animal, particularly a horse, can improve confidence, can help build trust, and can give people new tools to tackle some of those challenges they may be facing," she said.
Timmreck-King is familiar with PTSD from her work as a nurse practitioner for the U.S. Peace Corps, she said.
As large as horses are, they're considered a prey species. They feel safer in herds, and when it comes to humans, they're looking for trust, and to know that a person isn't going to hurt them, Timmreck-King said.
Some veterans when they come to the farm have lost confidence in their ability to work with an animal like a horse, Timmreck-King said.
Within minutes of meeting, once veterans gain the animals' trust and vice versa, Timmreck-King said she sees a change in the human's demeanor.
"They are excited about the interaction, most of them really enjoy it, and then they want to spend more time and become more connected," she said.
Jeff Dwyer, the owner of Ebb Tide Stables, said when working with horses, two-way trust is required. He has had people come in for the Horses Help Heroes program who wouldn't come close to the horse at first - one wouldn't even leave the parking lot. After a month, that person bought their own horse, Dwyer said.
During programming, there is always a veteran or an active duty military person on site, so participants have someone around who can understand their situation.
"We need this to be a safe place for them," Dwyer said.
In addition to the weekly visits from Walter Reed patients, veterans drop by whenever they feel like they need some time in the stable or with the horses, Dwyer said.
Horses Help Heroes offer different tiers of services - level one is "hanging with horses," level two is "conversations with horses" and level three is "enrichment with horses," Timmreck-King said.
In the first tier, participants hang out with the horses, observing how the horses interact in their pack and how they interact with other people. That could include things like barn tours or family fun days.
"We want veterans and their families to come out and just enjoy their time with the horses," Timmreck-King said.
The second tier is more hands-on. Participants learn about horse psychology and communication, and spend time closer to the horses, possibly caring for horses, grooming them.
The third tier is more structured. The program follows the Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association's model in either single or multi-week sessions, Timmreck-King said, in a program that is tailored to the needs of the group. This level also offers riding lessons and therapeutic riding.
More information about the charity, and how to participate or volunteer, is available on its website at www.horseshelpheroes.org.
Credit: By Rachael Pacella - firstname.lastname@example.org
Caption: Marine veteran Dean Macy, left, and active duty Army Lt. Col. Bill Culp walk a couple of horses from the field to the stable.
Ebb Tide Stables owner Jeff Dwyer says hello to Strider. Horses Help Heroes is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of service-connected disabled veterans, their families, and families who have lost loved ones while serving on active duty by providing equine-related programs in a safe, supportive environment at the Ebb Tide Stables at Sunrise Farm in Gambrills.
Frances, left, smiles for the camera as Unicorn stands in the background.
Volunteer Christie Craven greets one of the horses named Unicorn.
By Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette
photos by By Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette