Thanks to the blog Off-Track Thoroughbreds.com for the heads up on a great program just recently implemented in Saratoga. The Saratoga War Horse Project brings retired racehorses and war veterans together for quality time that helps both adjust to life after their high stress careers. As the article points out, many veterans have psychological traumas that can be devastating to their quality of life upon returning home, and are no longer used to an environment where they do not have to be constantly hyper-vigilant. Retired racehorses often come off the track with few equine socialization skills, and can be uncertain about how to function in the less structured environment of a farm. Bringing the two together allows both to ease their transitions, and learn how not to be "'on point all the time.'"
I have worked for a therapeutic riding organization that had a division devoted to providing hippo-therapy to war vets, and have seen firsthand the mental and physical benefits that it can provide. Many of the vets in my program explained that being around the horses allowed them to put their stress aside and indulge in something purely pleasurable. It also allowed them to get back in touch with the more sensitive side of their personalities that they had often suppressed in order to survive in the life-threatening combat environment.
Kudos to all involved with the Saratoga War Horse Project for putting the healing power of horses to such good use.