Last year, I learned about a Maryland-based organization that brings horses and veterans together when Horses Healing Maryland’s Military (HHMM) was showcased at the Maryland State Fair. Again this year, HHMM will host the Military and Therapeutic Riding Showcase at the Maryland State Fair on September 1 (tickets available here).
According to their website, HHMM is "a coalition of licensed Maryland stables offering horsemanship and therapeutic programs to Veterans and their families. Representatives from HHMM horse centers meet monthly to discuss issues facing Maryland stables that offer horsemanship programs for Wounded Warriors, Veterans and their families. HHMM members have found it very helpful to share resources and information on their Veteran horsemanship programs."
(photo from HHMM website http://www.horsesandveterans.com)
I reached out to HHMM and spoke with Laura Lane-Unsworth, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Brave HEART (Heroes Equine Adventure & Riding Therapy) Program, Inc. Here is our interview:
Holden Rafey (HR): Your website says this is a new coalition. Can you tell me how long the coalition has existed and who helped bring the coalition together?
Laura Lane-Unsworth (LL-U): The coalition is about a year old, and was formed with the help of Ross Peddicord, Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board.
HR: Why was this organization created?
LL-U: It’s so beneficial to have therapeutic equine organizations in Maryland gathering together to share information and resources, and help one another reach Veterans in need in our communities.
HR: According to the American Horse Council’s press release dated July 31, 2017:
“Prior to adjourning for the August recess, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act” (H.R. 3219) offered by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), a bill that will increase equine therapy funding for veterans by $5 million during Fiscal Year 2018. “
Do you have any comment on that?
LL-U: Yes, the government put aside a great deal of money so there’s lots to do moving forward. To protect Veterans, the VA (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs) wants participating equine-assisted therapy programs to be well documented, established programs, and they want to see research and documentation.
HR: Have you heard about the Man O’War Project? According to their website, the Man O’ War Project is the first university-led research trial aimed specifically at veterans diagnosed with PTSD to determine the effectiveness of Equine-Assisted Therapy for treating PTSD (EAT-PTSD) and to establish manualized guidelines for the application of EAT-PTSD.
LL-U: Documenting change can be difficult, but if these researchers have a way to do it, then this initiative would be extremely helpful.
HR: Since this is a youth blog, can you tell me if there are any volunteer opportunities for youth?
LLR: Youth can volunteer and fulfill high school volunteer service hours at HHMM facilities, and there are lots of ways to serve. The Maryland Council of Equestrian Therapies (MCET) has a young man assisting with social media, and at BRAVE Heart we have had three Eagle Scout projects completed. We really believe in reaching out and working with youth organizations.
HR: Can you tell me about this year’s HHMM Military and Therapeutic Riding Showcase on September 1 at the Maryland State Fair?
LL-U: This is the second year for the HHMM Showcase and will feature a Caisson Platoon from Fort Myer and Klinger, the Horse Stars Hall of Fame 2013 inductee for his service in the Caisson Platoon. At least 40 mounted police officers will execute obstacle classes, and Veterans from many HHMM programs will also participate, including Veteran Drill Teams. This is a fantastic community event and a great chance for Veterans to build camaraderie.
2016 HHMM Military and Therapeutic Riding Showcase
(photo courtesy of Laura Lane-Unsworth/HHMM)
I hope you will join me at the Maryland State Fair to see HHMM’s Military and Therapeutic Riding Showcase, and consider volunteering at a therapeutic riding center as well.
My name is Holden Rafey, and I am honored to be serving as the Maryland Horse Council’s Youth Correspondent. As the MHC Youth Correspondent, I will be posting monthly to this blog about horse-related topics in the state of Maryland to give a youth perspective and share information of interest to MHC youth members and young readers. I live in Montgomery County and attend Walter Johnson High School, where I play softball and field hockey. My equestrian trainer is Melinda Cohen, and I ride at her barn, Dream Catcher Farm, in Frederick County. In addition to being the Youth Correspondent for the MHC, I am serving a third term on the Washington International Horse Show Junior Committee and have served as an intern for the American Horse Council.