Veterans Program Tips

Here are some notes about running a Veterans therapeutic horseback riding program, mostly from the first PATH Intl Veterans Workshop at Bravehearts in 2013 that I attended. Again, not comprehensive, just ideas that really struck me. Hope they help!


  • They tend to arrive early
    • Create a Canteen area to hang out
    • Create a garden area to rest/disassociate beforehand
  • Integrate veterans into the program
    • As volunteers
    • Get them certified to teach
    • Graduate from program, give T-shirt, and let them participate in TR program in direction they want – 1st 10 weeks like boot camp
  • Keep veterans separate from TR
    • they are not the same and don’t want to be grouped in with them
    • Advertise “veterans and family only – Saturdays” etc.
  • Veterans advisory board
    • Let them decide what to do – garden, chickens, help with TR, etc.
    • Natural leaders will expose themselves, pull them aside
  • Get veteran/gold start mother on the board
  • Special Training
    • Bring in special training for understanding PTSD, suicide, etc. – you don’t have to be a therapist, but you should be educated on the issues and dangers – for both staff and volunteers – we did Mental Health First Aid training at Bravehearts when I was there
  • TBI – may forget about riding lessons, so have staff or fellow veteran call/txt/fbook reminder the day before


  • Use different form than kids or rec
  • Work with rec therapists and let them know what you need, then they take it to the physicians and simplify
  • If it’s in your policy what you need, you don’t have to use PATH docs
  • Consider including (and whether affects acceptance)
    • Addiction history
    • Psychotic and uncontrolled tendencies
    • If Seeing therapist about these
  • Consider requirements for acceptance into program
    • No active illegal addictions, psychotic/uncontrolled tendencies
    • Must be under therapist supervision
    • Doctor’s release for physical injuries
    • Weight limit
    • Any extra screenings vs TR riders


  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, build on successes before you
  • Show proven programs, articles, testimonials
  • Promote your program and leave the info with them
  • Find someone they trust to being them in – ex) retired navy chief who director had connections to took group out first few times
  • Advertise “veterans and family only – Saturdays” etc.
  • Local returning units get briefed on benefits
  • VA Outreach Coordinator or Rec Therapist
  • Register at Operation Free Ride


  • Depends on VA, who they bring, if they stay clean, etc.
  • Must with work VA Rec Therapist closely, their coals, clients
  • Get a veteran to be a spokesperson
  • Innovation, stay interesting
  • Get them involved, give purpose

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

― Thích Nhất Hạnh


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!

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