Thorough(bred) therapy coming to Fort Knox

U.S. Army post partners with Wild Rose Equestrian Center on therapeutic program

To volunteer: Contact Volunteer Coordinator Dawn Santee at (270) 300-8987 or e-mail wildroseww@yahoo.com. A training course is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 18 at Wild Rose Equestrian Center on 589 Franklin Lane in Elizabethtown, and is free to volunteers. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old, physically fit and able to participate for 90 minutes of therapy. The sessions will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday and volunteers must commit to a minimum of two sessions per month.

The News Enterprise
September 13, 2010
By MARTY FINLEY

Fort Knox soldiers enrolled in the Warrior Transition Unit on post will get some fleet-footed assistance starting Oct. 1.

After months of meetings, the post has partnered with Wild Rose Equestrian Center in Elizabethtown at Wild Rose Farms off Franklin Lane to launch an equine therapy program.

Lt. Col. David Haines, battalion commander of the Warrior Transition Unit, said similar programs have been developed at other military posts in recent years to positive fanfare.

"The smart people are telling me it's really good," Haines said.

Tom and Karen Brown, owners of Wild Rose Equestrian Center, first approached the post earlier in the year and proposed the idea, which sparked a series of meetings to sort out the details. One of the major sticking points early on was a source of funding and the answer came in the form of a grant from the American Red Cross for the inaugural year.

Once launched, the center will accommodate five soldiers a week and the baseline length of therapy for an individual soldier is four to six weeks, Tom Brown said. However, the length of the therapy will be determined by the soldier's therapist. Depending on the soldier's progress, he added, some may need eight to 10 weeks.

Haines said the post has sent an occupational therapist and a therapy assistant to receive certification for the program.

To avoid any confusion, Karen Brown said, the program will not be soldiers simply riding horses; rather, the horse will be an extension of the soldier's overall therapy.

"This is just the tool and classroom they've chosen to use," Karen Brown said.

But she said it will benefit soldiers in a significant way by taking them out of a clinical environment and placing them in a more natural setting.

"It's going to open up a lot of doors for them," she said.

The couple has a military background, serving in the U.S. Army, and feels a kinship with the men and women who have been injured in conflict. As of Friday, 334 soldiers were enrolled in the Warrior Transition Unit, many of whom are battling with Traumatic Brain Injury.

"They've given up a lot," Tom Brown said. "They've all lost something."

The Browns have seen the benefits of therapeutic riding first hand with other clients, including special needs adults and children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Most arrive withdrawn and startled by the new experience but eventually bond with the animals, Karen Brown said. This, in turn, boosts their confidence and improves quality of life.

"They're not out there galloping around the ring, but they are riding," Karen Brown said. "They're in charge."

One woman in particular was frightened and reclusive when she first arrived a few years ago. Since then, Karen Brown has witnessed her transformation — a woman now comfortable with her surroundings and confident in her abilities.

The Browns said seeing the metamorphosis is both touching and rewarding and described the experience as a stress reliever from the outside world — a gift they are eager to share with wounded warriors.

"It's healing," Karen Brown said.

Unfortunately, budget constraints have stopped them from expanding the program out of the gate, but they hope more grant opportunities will arise. Tom Brown said they originally had a larger program in mind, but stripped it to the "bare bones" to complement the grant.

Another concern is the need for volunteers to assist soldiers as side walker safeties. Karen Brown said they will need three volunteers per soldier and training needs to be completed. To qualify, volunteers must be 16 years of age, physically fit and able to participate for 90 minutes of therapy. A training course is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Once the program starts, therapy sessions will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday and volunteers must be willing to commit to two sessions per month, she said.

Tom Brown said they hope to have 40 volunteers initially and Karen Brown hopes to see a large response from retired military, which will create an atmosphere of camaraderie.

She said volunteering for the program also is an outlet for the community to give back to those who have served them.

"They've earned this," Karen Brown said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.

This story, written by Marty Finley, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The News Enterprise. Read more stories from The News Enterprise at www.thenewsenterprise.com.