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At Aiken Equine Rescue there is a simple, yet profound saying about the work that they do. It’s about people helping horses and horses helping people. In their 16 years of operation, Aiken Equine Rescue has rescued and rehomed over 1,400 equines, providing each with the proper shelter, food, medical attention, and personal care needed until they are adopted by a loving family.
In addition to their active rescue efforts, the organization also operates several programs to promote healing and connection throughout the community. Their programs include work with veterans, women affected by physical and sexual trauma, adult and youth community service, at risk youth,
Trust&Release is a program for veterans, active duty and victims of trauma. This human-to-horse interaction is a personal experience. A one on one emotional exchange. Horses help people open up in ways that traditional methods can’t. Reduced stress, increased confidence, the horses can sense your feelings, help build trust and confidence.
Joe Cruz is a military veteran who has been a volunteer at Aiken Equine Rescue for the past year. “Being in the army, my life was structured and there was a set purpose. After retiring I lost that feeling of purpose. I have that back now as I interact with the horses and know I am making a difference in their lives and the Aiken community.”
In addition to helping the animals onsite at the rescue, these Leisure Days also are about providing connection and fellowship between the volunteer veterans and active duty members, as well as those from the local community.
“The chance to interact with active duty who come to the rescue volunteering their time gives us the same purpose which is to better the lives of the animals that live there” said Joe.
“Being new to the area and being retired after 25 years in the army we have met many friends there. The rescue feels like a family now. It is a relaxing place to go to make a difference for the animals and the soldiers who volunteer. I know what they are going through as I have walked in their boots.”
For active duty participants, the program provides an opportunity to escape from the pace of their normal routine and enjoy a well needed mental break. Horses provide a powerful healing ability that can help those dealing with high stress levels as well as those who may be suffering from PTSD. Volunteers in the program often form bonds with the horses on site, leading to a connection that is meaningful and rewarding for both the volunteers and the rescued horses.
Joe has formed a particularly strong bond with “B,” one of the horses at the rescue.“She bonded with me when I was clearing her paddock last summer. She followed me around observing what I was doing and waited for me. She looks for me now. She is not an easy horse, she came from the racing world and is feisty. That is what I like about her. When you look into her eyes you can see her intelligence and when I talk with her she really listens and she knows what I am saying. Some horses have a hard time trusting at first and it is very rewarding to gain their trust.”
Aiken Equine Rescue continues to make strides to help as many horses in need as they can, and in doing so they are opening their doors to help as many people in their local community as they can too. To learn more about all of the incredible program opportunities that are offered at the rescue, you can visit their website at aikenequinerescue.org. For information on how you can support Aiken Equine Rescue in their efforts to rebuild after last year’s devastating barn fire, check out their Brick Fundraiser going on now.