State grant helping veterans heal through equine therapy at Refuge Services

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 10:46 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Refuge Services is helping heal more veterans in our area, thanks to more funding from the state. Last week, the Texas Veterans Commission granted the non-profit $200,000.

Executive Director Patti Mandrell says the yearly funding from the state means they can serve more veterans and spend more quality time with each of them. The healing process is unique at Refuge Services, with a horse as part of each session.

The non-profit provides equine-assisted therapy at no cost for veterans and their family members. The mental health counseling services begin with therapeutic riding.

“Symptom reduction is our goal of reducing anxiety, reducing depression, helping improve sleep, reducing anger outbursts and a lot of the emotion; helping regulate the emotions. And through that rhythmic riding, their body to start the healing process,” Mandrell said.

Next, veterans work with a licensed counselor, alongside the horses, to work through what’s going on below the surface.

Mandrell says horses help slow the process down and provide a sense of calm. When trauma is targeted too quickly, she says it can cause walls to come up and make it harder to get to what’s underneath.

“Through the use of the horses, we’re able to help them to break through some of those barriers that their body may be putting up, that’s holding them back from being able to access and find some resolution to some of the things that have been blocking them from healing in the way they want to,” Mandrell said.

More than 110 veterans were served last year, all learning new ways to cope with what they’ve been through and reconnect with their families, communities and themselves.

“So many veterans will say, ‘I have not felt peace like that in years. I’m sleeping better. I hadn’t slept through the night in years. My family says I’m back,’” Mandrell said.

Refuge Services is celebrating 25 years in Lubbock next year. It’s spent 18 of those providing these services for veterans all across our area.