QU veterans benefit from equine therapy program

QU veterans benefit from equine therapy program


Veteran Maureen Friedly, in yellow, cares for a horse at the Quinnipiac veterans equine therapy event. | Ken Liebeskind, The North Haven Citizen

Quinnipiac University occupational therapy students completed a veteran’s equine learning program on Sunday, April 9 at the JC Eventing barn in North Haven. Four members of the QU veterans program attended the event, which was supervised by Donna Latella, an OT professor.

Latella said equine therapy assists veterans who suffer from PTSD and anxiety. “They come and groom and lead and walk the horses and learn about horse care,” she said. “Making connections with a horse improves their lives and decreases stress.”

At Sunday’s event, Latella, her husband Dominic and Lydia Anderson, an OT student, rode horses around the ring as patriotic music played before veterans led horses on a journey walk around the ring.

Maureen Friedly, who served in the Marines from 2006 to 2010, was one of the four veterans who attended the event with her three-year-old daughter Arlette. “I don’t have PTSD but I do have service related anxiety,” she said. “This program has been nice because working with horses helps a lot. It reduces stress and helps me recharge and reboot. Teaching the horses also helps because it’s important for Marines to be in charge. We build a bond with the horses and gain their trust without verbal communication.”

Friedly lives in Middletown where she runs a small farm and she graduated from QU last summer.

Latella welcomed the student veterans as the event, which culminated a semester long program began. “Thank you for participating and thank you for your service,” she said. She mounted Steady Eddy, her 27-year-old therapy horse, and rode him around the ring before encouraging the students to take horses from the Eventing barn on journey walks. “The human animal bond has a lot of benefits,” she said. “It reduces stress and increases confidence, especially with large animals.”

The capstone project for QU veterans, which she called the Heroes and Horses program, “has been a dream come true. We hope to expand the program next year to include more veterans from Quinnipiac as well as the community at large.”

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