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War Horse Project enters year two, but needs help

By Sarah Hyatt, The Daily Observer

Cpl. Andrew Latulippe and Marie Reaume enjoy a visit with Dakato during a War Horse Project session in October 2014.

SARAH HYATT/DAILY OBSERVER Cpl. Andrew Latulippe and Marie Reaume enjoy a visit with Dakato during a War Horse Project session in October 2014.

The War Horse Project continues to gain momentum as a unique and effective local program that helps soldiers, veterans and first responders, but Hope Reins still needs help.

It was recently announced, True Patriot Love, a national charity will support the program this year with a $25,000 grant.

But to fully fund the program for 32 veterans this year, program director Alison Vandergragt says another $40,000 is needed.

Launched in July of 2014 by Hope Reins Equine Assisted Therapy, which has been offering kids equine assisted therapy since 2011, the War Horse Project is a 16-week program that involves horses and participant-centered activities to help soldiers, veterans and first responders who are dealing with the after effects of trauma.

The cost to run a 16-week program for eight clients at roughly three hours a week is about $16,000. And up until recently, no funding was available, Vandergragt added. Last year’s programming which helped a number of locals struggling, ran solely on volunteer-power, she said. About 400 volunteer hours were needed to sustain the program, according to Vandergragt. Long-term, this obviously isn’t sustainable, the program director noted.

The group and Vandergragt are appealing to the public for their help. “Every dollar helps and is appreciated,” she said. The results of the program are promising, she added.

Data collected beginning in July of last year shows participants of the program are benefiting from the bond they’re making with the horses in therapy, it was explained.

They’re reconnecting with themselves with the program, Vandergragt said.

How it works, a small and dedicated team of equine specialists and mental health professionals help to create a safe environment where soldiers or veterans can explore feelings, behaviours and strategies, all starting with a trusting relationship with a horse.

Specifically, the program is meant to help people struggling with operational stress injuries or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

For anyone who’d like to help, a donation would be greatly appreciated. But others can also spread the news about the program and that helps, Vandergragt insists. Volunteers are always welcome and needed too.

For more information, contact Vandergragt via email at or call 613-585-1208. The War Horse Project is also on Facebook.

All too often, most of us don’t know how we can help, the program director admits. “These stories capture the hearts of Canadians who want to help those who have served and continue to serve their country and communities…But a unique and effective program being run in Pembroke, in the Ottawa Valley is helping soldiers and first responders, but needs your help.”

This year’s sessions start in March. Tuesday sessions begin March 10 and run to June 23. And Friday sessions begin on March 13 and run to June 26. Spaces are limited but there is not charge for the program.

Sarah Hyatt is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist.


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