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Abused Horses Find New Calling Easing Vets' PTSD

Veteran who went through such a program is creating his own in Alabama
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2016 11:33 AM CDT
Abused Horses Find New Calling Easing Vets' PTSD
In this June 13, 2016 photo, Dan and Amy Thomas calm the two Friesian horses they were picking up at the York Correctional Center in Niantic, Conn. The horses were among others seized in February as part of an animal-cruelty probe, that were later auctioned off.   (Susan Haigh)

After losing sight in his right eye from a 2013 rocket attack in Afghanistan, retired Army Maj. Dan Thomas recovered with help from an equine therapy program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, reports the AP. Hoping to help other veterans, he and his wife traveled to Connecticut last week to purchase two massive, jet black carriage horses, animals put up for auction by the state after they were seized from a breeder as part of an animal abuse investigation and rehabilitated through a state program involving female prison inmates. Thomas said the two Friesian mares—Francisca and Rosalind—are the perfect animals to help vets deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. "They know what it's like to go through hell and come out the other side," said Thomas, who plans to create a program similar to the one he experienced at the couple's 160-acre ranch in Black, Ala. The Friesians join seven other horses the couple previously rescued.

Considered a "war horse" in the Middle Ages, Friesians are a highly sought-after breed, recognized for being gentle and intelligent. Thomas knows firsthand that such a demeanor can be calming for returning combat vets. "After being blown up, it's quite a traumatic experience. The horses are what works for me. So I know it's out there and works for other people because I've seen it," Thomas said, explaining how there's peace in being around such a powerful creature that could hurt you but doesn't. The 32 horses seized in February from the Fairy Tail Equine breeding center in East Hampton attracted great attention because of the type of horses involved. Besides Friesians, Andalusian and Gypsy Vanner horses were also seized. Thomas saw photos of Francisca and Rosalind after they were seized. "I'm just really impressed with what the state of Connecticut has done here because these horses are beautiful now," he said. "The state of Connecticut has saved some lives." (More PTSD stories.)

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