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War Horse for Veteran Program offers a peer-led approach for first responders and veterans to

promote self-awareness, leadership, communication skills, and tactical longevity through horsemanship.

War Horses is a one of a kind facility that is led by retired military veterans and first responders.

“Oftentimes, when first responders tend to really struggle is after either a major critical incident on the job or cumulative and chronic exposure to stress on the job. More specifically, when you see constant examples of humans harming other humans, your faith in humanity can fade. As can your confidence and security in the capacity to have relationships with other people. Constant examples of humans harming or negatively impacting other humans can lead to distrust and disengagement from old or current relationships and avoidance of forming new relationships. It can also lead to hyper-vigilance, and relatedly, subsequent self-protection in current relationships, which can lead to pulling away from people who care about you. And not surprisingly, it can also lead to significant conflict with not only spouses, romantic partners, and your kids, but also your co-workers, command staff, and those you may lead or supervise. Depth of relationships with others is a resiliency factor in keeping first responders healthy. However, merely the trauma exposures on the job have the potential to lead to relationship deterioration, breaking apart factor that can be a protective element in keeping first responders well in the face of further on-the-job cumulative stress and trauma exposure. War Horses aims to directly address this issue. But through highly non-traditional means. Often, attempts at relationship-building are either done in academic or coaching/therapeutic settings. Although those methods may be somewhat helpful, War Horses aims to build relationships through direct experiences. Often, individuals who are already stressed and burnt out or emotionally rattled cannot fully take in and process complex information in the form of those more direct methods. Instead, the "back door" approach of demonstrating relationship building with a non-human is significantly more tolerable to those individuals than directly addressing their issues head on with humans. War Horses uses horsemanship skills to provide the first responder with real-time feedback on how they may approach relationships in their own lives and what is and isn't working. This is a much easier pill to swallow than direct confrontation with their problems with humans and confronting them on their "issues" with how they may relate to others. Then, once their experience with the horse is processed, they can apply the same insight and principles to their current relationships with humans. Time and time again, the staff and clinicians at War Horses have seen "ah ha" moments where first responders take what they learned in the horsemanship lesson and apply it directly to their human relationships. “-Jennifer Prohaska, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, First Responder Specialist.

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© 2016 Missouri Crisis Intervention Team (MO CIT) Council. 

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