NARHA Establishes Horses for Heroes

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The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) has recently announced plans to develop a nationwide program for America’s wounded service personnel and veterans. NARHA promotes equine assisted activities at more than 700 member centers in the U.S. and Canada, helping individuals with special needs gain greater independence through their involvement with horses. 

“Appreciating the power of the horse to change lives is our goal,” says NARHA President Dr. Paul Spiers. “Our service personnel have fought to preserve our freedom and, for many, at a very dear cost. We must be certain that if our wounded service personnel and veterans need and want this kind of help, they will get the best NARHA has to offer. ” 

In a meeting last weekend, the NARHA’s board of trustees, committees and membership representatives drew together to establish Horses For Heroes. A task force was formed to develop the program, pilot the methods to be used, educate member instructors and monitor any services provided through NARHA’s nationwide centers.

Based on the success of recent pilot programs at Ft. Hood in Texas and Ft. Myer in Virginia, NARHA wants to use the lessons learned to prepare local centers for these service personnel as they return to their home communities. The Horses For Heroes task force will oversee and facilitate the orderly development of appropriate equine assisted activities, such as therapeutic riding and driving, as well as equine facilitated psychotherapy, tailored specifically to the needs of service personnel and veterans. 

NARHA’s Chief Executive Officer, Sheila Kemper Dietrich, notes, “This is a population that only a few of our centers have tried to serve in the past, but it is clear how helpful Equine Assisted Activities can be for our wounded service personnel and veterans, and we need to provide these opportunities and approach this in a systematic fashion.”
 
NARHA’s national leadership in Horses For Heroes will create a primary point of contact for therapeutic riding centers, potential veteran or service personnel clients, interested health service providers, and for developing the financial resources to support the program. Kemper Dietrich is already negotiating with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) to create a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations. Despite the overwhelming desire of many NARHA centers to help, Horses For Heroes will need to be properly funded and it is hoped that it will ultimately be furnished with a DVA reimbursement code, just as for other forms of treatment.

The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, located in Denver, Colorado, was formed in 1969 to promote equine assisted activities for individuals with special needs. At over 700 member centers, a total of 36,000 children and adults find a sense of independence through involvement with horses. For more information about NARHA visit www.narha.org or call 800-369-RIDE.

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