horses for heroesDr. Paul Spiers, past NARHA (North American Riding for Handicapped Association) president describes the organization’s goal as, “appreciating the power of horses to change lives.”

When considering our service men and women, Spiers feels especially strong. He continues, “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.”

For this reason, NARHA has created what is now known as “Horses For Heroes.”  This unique program, operated through a partnership between the Department of  Veterans Affairs and NARHA, pairs veterans with horses as a way to promote therapeutic change, be it physical or psychological. To this end, the program provides guidelines for equine assisted activities and therapies, specific to veterans.

This admirable mission is accomplished through connections between individual Veterans Medical Centers and Clinics, and nearby NARHA programs. Sometimes, even individual veterans are referred to equine therapy programs either through friends, or other veterans. The beauty of the Horses for heroes program is that it not only designed just for the conditions that returning veterans may find themselves in, but also that it is not age limited.

As this program is primarily run through grants, donations are very much appreciated, and can be made either online, at, or through the mail at:

NARHA Horses for Heroes
PO Box 33150
Denver, CO 80233

In terms of the publicity that Horses For Heroes has engendered, her are a few articles:

February 2011: NARHA Horses for Heroes at Central Kentucky Riding for the Handicapped

February, 2011: NARHA Horses for Heroes Photo Essay by Martha McNeil at DreamPower

November 2010. This video was filmed in October 2010 and was shown on KTEH-TV in California the week before Thanksgiving. Jeremiah Ridgeway, a US Army Calvary Scout with the 10th Mountain Division, served 15 months in combat in Afghanistan. He is now a civilian working with the VA and with DreamPower Horsemanship (San Martin, CA) NARHA Horses for Heroes.

March/April 2010: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs magazine, Vanguard, highlights the story “High in the Saddle” (pages 16-19)

Fall 2009: NARHA Strides Magazine story, “Heroes on Horses: Partnering With Veteran’s Groups

Spring 2009: NARHA Strides Magazine story, “Riding Rehab

May 11, 2008: Haverill Gazette story, “Shaking the Horrors of War

Spring 2008: NARHA Strides Magazine story, “Serving the Older Veteran

July 4, 2007: CBS Evening News Story “The Horses of Arlington

April 2007: North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, Inc. Establishes “Horses for Heroes” Program (press release)

Fall 2006: NARHA Strides Magazine story, “I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade

For those who may be interested in related programs or information, here are some links:

Find NARHA Centers offering Horses for Heroes Programs

Purchase NARHA’s Horses for Heroes DVD (Coming Soon!)

Join the NARHA Horses for Heroes Yahoo Email Group.

Start a NARHA Horses for Heroes program at your center.

In time, NARHA hopes that the Horses For Heroes program will spread beyond the knowledge of the Veterans Affairs and into the mainstream. Certainly with the multitude of returning soldiers, Horses For Heroes fills a very important need.

Photo by Linda, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.