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Horses helping heroes rebound

SHARON  — Some 200 people came to a remote corner of Sharon on Saturday, Sept. 30 to hear from the veterans and first responders who have reclaimed their lives thanks to the efforts of The Equus Effect.

Founder Jane Strong addressed the crowd, saying that the veterans and first responders are best thought of as “guardians.”

“These are the folks who serve us every day — because we can’t.”

When someone calls 911, or when American forces are deployed overseas, “We want someone who knows what to do.”

But the work takes its toll, with veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and alarming suicide rates.

Compounding the problem is the stigma attached to asking for help.

This is where The Equus Effect comes in, offering programming free of charge for veterans and first responders.

Matty Frank, a former homicide detective from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., led a grey draft horse named Babe around the pavilion. 

After one turn, Frank and Babe started dancing while continuing around the circle.

Afterwards, Frank said he was shot in the line of duty in 2006. He recovered physically, but he struggled with PTSD.

Traditional therapy helped to a point, “but that was nothing compared to working with the horses.”

Frank pointed out that horses are prey animals, not predators like humans.

“They survive by reading people.”

Working with the horses helped him reestablish the personal relationships the PTSD had damaged.

“Just ask my wife,” said Frank.

After the horse demonstrations, the guests assembled inside the pavilion for a successful fundraising appeal.

The veterans and first responders come for a total of 16 hours. The cost is $1,200 per person, and it is free for the guardians.

So the initial appeal was for pledges of $7,200, or one group of six. Several people indicated they were willing to pony up.

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