Through the ages, humans have relied on horses for transportation, as beasts of burden and for pure recreation and enjoyment. At BraveHearts, a therapeutic riding center in north central Illinois, dedicated staff rely on specially trained horses for yet another purpose: healing.
Between its two locations, BraveHearts offers hippotherapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy and therapeutic riding, a trifecta of horse-centered programs designed to address clients’ wide-ranging physical, social and behavioral needs. The nonprofit serves a multitude of clients, including children as young as four years old, but it is perhaps best known for its work with military veterans. Today, BraveHearts boasts the largest equine-based program in the nation for retired service members, all at no cost to veterans and a family member/caregiver.
BraveHearts’ equine-based services provide a catalyst for life change, and address many emotional, cognitive, social and physical challenges faced by participants. Among the many benefits, program participants may improve balance and focus, and expand communication skills. Additionally, clients often associate their time at the barn with increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust in others and community integration, coupled with decreased depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and self-harm thoughts.