Camp K Horses for Heroes Trailride and Salute

Camp K's Horses for Heroes program serves US military veterans who have experienced physical or emotional trauma (PTSD) and their families, by providing recreational and therapeutic horseback riding as well as equine-facilitated psychotherapy (unmounted) for individual service members, their families, and groups.  Horseback riding has for many decades been recognized as a tremendous therapeutic modality for children and adults with physical disabilities, individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, even traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries with lessons that improve core strength, balance, coordination, muscle spasticity, flexibility and tone, communication, focus, and attending. More recently, horseback riding and even just interacting on the ground with these large, strong , possibly intimidating, yet sensitive animals has gained in popularity and success with treating people with mental, behavioral, and psychological disorders as well.  At Fort Hood, for example, a horseback riding program for soldiers has been found to be 50% more successful (and much less expensive) for treating soldiers with PTSD, over traditional clinic-based counseling and medication therapies. Our National Day of Service and Remembrance project will be a public horseback trailride at an urban equestrian park here in Salt Lake City, to honor, commemmorate, and recognize Utah veterans, including some disabled veterans who will ride with us, involving dozens of volunteers from the George Whalen VA Medical Center, Utah National Guard and reservists who will volunteer as sidewalkers, leadwalkers, transporters, trail monitors, grill cooks, and in other capacities!   Additional volunteers will come from Backcountry Horsemen of Utah chapters and Pony Express riders, as well as students from a nearby school who will write and send letters (via the Pony Express riders) to the participating veterans. The event will be promoted via radio stations, local events calendars, social media, veterans-service organizations, and more.  The actual project/event will include a trail-side barbecue lunch, prepared by volunteers, and other activities for veterans and their families, as well as a moment of reverent silence and remembrance for all who have served and sacrificed for America. It will most surely attract significant media coverage.

Need: as more and more servicemen and women are returning who have experienced physical and psychological trauma; suffer depression, addiction, or anti-social or mal-adaptive behaviors to family and society, and even contemplated suicide, Camp K's Horses for Heroes program meets a growing need: for programs and projects that help veterans overcome feelings of isolation and loss: i.e. loss of identity and role in their families, homelessness, loss of jobs, confusion, inadequacy, hyper-vigilence and hyper-reactivity (all symptoms of PTSD).  How? Horses are highly instinctive, non-critical, and accepting of humans who treat them with respect, calm, and kindness. In the presence of a horse, soldiers who may otherwise keep their fears and feelings bottled inside, are more apt to communicate and express themselves, leading to healing of other relationships in their lives, especially in this experiential activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family, helping to build self-esteem, confidence, and self-efficacy for all. For people who may have fear and boundary issues, working with horses can be especially empowering, helping (for example) victims of domestic violence, children with attachment disorders, parenting with more praise and less blame and criticism, etc, because you can't force a horse to do anything, you have to "be" passively persistent until they "want" to do it, then reward the slightest try. Thank you for approving our project so that Camp K can serve more people and families in need with this incredible program. Established in 1967, Kostopulos Dream Foundation has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for youth and adults with disabilities and special medical needs, through therapeutic recreation and life-skill education. It is one of the very few non-profits in the entire Salt Lake metropolitan area offering year-round activities and inclusive programs for this growing population, specializing in summer camps, social clubs, after-school programs, and community-based programs including transportation.