Opiod, PSTD, and similar Rehabilitations
- how it works.

Horses have an ability to change a mind.  This story about Violet was published as noted.  In it you will find out about the patient, the amazing people who work with the horses, and the how a horse can solve many problems.

The opioid diaries: In Naples, a horse named Tacoma

Written by Patricia Borns,  (some editing was done to fit this format)
The News-Press Published 7:35 a.m. ET March 8, 2019 | Updated 8:43 a.m. ET March 8, 2019

(Photo: Amanda Inscore/The News-Press USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA)

[Robin Heroth, a trainer at Naples Therapeutic Riding Center, walks Tacoma, an American Paint therapy horse, under a covered arena where students and horses overcome physical and emotional obstacles.]

Robin Heroth of Naples Therapeutic Riding Center notes “Horses show empathy. They don't judge or hide their feelings.”
(Photo: Patricia Borns/The News-Press)

The Scared Young Man

There are 1000 or more Organizations who use Therapy Horses to help people.   Some specialize for Military, Athletes. Challenges that begin at birth, or the rest of us who have an Accident that gives us an impairment.

There is a long list of techniques that horses can do for humans.  Some border on miraculous.  For example - nerves and muscles can be taught to work together restoring the ability to walk.   

Other people can have brain impairments solved by associating with a horse.

The result is always people who add function to their life.     The stories below are provided by organizations with highly trained people that match the need to the horse and technique.  

[Robin Heroth, a trainer at Naples Therapeutic Riding Center, demonstrates how students learn to hug a horse.]
l(Photo: Patricia Borns/The News-Press)

(c) 2019 Camp Rusk Foundation Inc      All rights reserved

Camp Rusk (www.CampRusk.com), Camp Rusk Foundation, Inc. Fund, Communities Foundation of Texas, and all Therapy Horse groups are separated organizations.


So are we.  These horses and the people who work with them give life to others.

Behind the scenes are the horses, their grooms, trainers, and life off the stage.

The people are highly trained, generally volunteers, and dedicated in a way only parents are dedicated to their children.  They have their own organization of over 900 chapters to stay at the top of their training and professionalism.

Having witnessed this selfless service to others year after year without any hesitation and often without rest on their part, we have decided we need to step up and do all we can for this unmet need.

You read that correctly.  An unmet need.  No one else is making sure there is a place for these horses after their service.

We have been handed a great opportunity.  We would very much appreciate your stepping up and stepping out from the line to assist.

Here are two ways to get with us.  You will be contacted quickly.

Phone or Text  
412 267 7875    (41 Camp Rusk)

The lesson is about taking control, not only of the horse, but of one's life as well.

Horses are herd-oriented, Heroth explained. They look to their leader, because out in the wild, you need one or you can get killed.

Acevedo had to show Tacoma who was boss.

The horse knows it is powerful, she said. It can want to lead you instead of vice-versa. You have to be assertive sometimes.

You also have to stay focused, because the horse's survival instinct makes it exquisitely attuned to your signals.

They feed off of our body language and feelings, so if we are anxious or fearful, it communicates there is something to be afraid of, Heroth said.

Coaxing Tacoma through the maze, Acevedo was too absorbed in what she was doing that she didn't think of her addiction at all -- for her, a breakthrough.

Mindfulness is not a word I knew or practiced until I came to this place, she said. It means being in the moment. When you work with a horse, you can't defocus or something can go wrong.

Robin Heroth of Naples Therapeutic Riding Center notes “Horses show empathy. They don't judge or hide their feelings.

This young man started out coming in a wheelchair to ride his pony - Majesty.

He was scared to death and clung onto the side walkers when he was placed on the horse. Once we would start walking, he would calm down but was still apprehensive about what he was doing and why. He would not engage in any of the tasks being done in the lesson – he would either ignore the props or throw them away.

As time progressed his trust in his side walkers and his pony grew and grew. His pony was the perfect gentleman no matter how much the young man fidgeted – bounced or turned around to pet Majesty's rump.

This child is now walking with assistance up the ramp AND he can sit balanced in the saddle.  He has developed a huge trust in his team to keep him safe. 

As a next step, he is starting to hold his reins and even do 5 – 6 steps of trotting.  As his fear has faded, he has started to interact with his team and do the task given during the lesson. This has taken over a year but the progress is amazing.

Horses know and understand our riders – they are truly a blessing.

Secrets of the Trade

"We put them with one horse in particular and ask them to bond with it." explains Robin.  Violet said:    “I realized that no two roads to recovery are alike. You have to try everything to learn what works for you.”

An American Paint with gentle eyes, Tacoma had been a family's pleasure horse before starting her therapeutic career. Now, instead of carrying people, she interacts with them.

Not all horses are cut out for this work, Heroth said.

Remember, horses are intuitive. They're taking it all in and it's mentally exhausting. They have to have a patient, kind personality, she said.

Acevedo had been around horses on her grandmother's Texas farm but never interacted with them. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, she was kicked to the curb at a young age, fending for herself on the streets.

Walking Tacoma for the first time, her heart raced.

People told me she wasn't easy to work with, but she was calm, and that calmed me,she said.

Each equine therapy session starts with grooming to establish a physical bond with the horse. Then comes an assignment, usually involving an obstacle course.

For instance, I ask them to set up an alleyway down the middle of the arena, putting obstacles in it relating to their recovery, Heroth said. Then we take off the lead rope, and they must convince the horse to go through the alley without touching him, using talk and body language only.

How Therapeutic Horsemanship started

A horse trainer named Linda Kohanov pioneered equine-facilitated psychotherapy in the 1990s; a way of building emotional and social skills through the bond of human and horse.

As her bond with Tacoma grew, the therapy pushed her to trust others. In one exercise, she had to wear a blindfold and walk the obstacle course with her hand on the horse's withers while someone else led the way.

Try to think of the obstacles in your life, the trainer told her.

Now Acevedo and Tacoma were the herd following a new leader. A David Lawrence therapist observing their communication could see, as she might not in a face-to-face session, how her client interacted with others, and, if there was an issue, work on it together.

(editing note - some of this story is omitted and can be read at the newspaper's website)

She put her arm around Tacoma's neck in a hug, the way Heroth showed her.
There has to be a reason I keep waking up, Acevedo said. Its for this.

Follow this reporter on Twitter @PatriciaBorns.

Barb and Maggie

I realized that no two roads to recovery are alike. You have to try everything to learn what works for you, Acevedo said. 

So when the staff at Naples' David Lawrence Center suggested equine therapy, she thought, why not?

Violet Acevedo with her equine therapy horse Tacoma at Naples Therapeutic Riding Center. Acevedo turned to equine therapy to help her overcome an opioid addiction that consumed her life for almost 10 years. The 33-year-old Naples woman has been opioid-free for going on five months.

Violet Acevedo's story is one in an occasional series on our regional opioid epidemic.

The horse leaned in as though giving her a hug, the sleekness of its powerful neck broken by a rough patch of skin.

This is how my life used to be, thought Violet Acevedo, the first time she groomed Tacoma perfect except for the rough patch of her opioid addiction.

Opioids hooked Acevedo after a job-related accident sidelined her from work.

At first she denied it: "How could a successful business consultant with a family, a home and plenty of money, have a problem?" the 33-year-old Naples woman thought.

Barb came to us with a background of riding. She has had a stroke and is unable to walk or use her right arm and hand. She gets on her horse – Maggie – sits up tall and works hard every week to regain her core strength and balance.

At the end of the lesson she is taken out of the saddle and placed back in her wheelchair.  Her eyes follow Maggie.  Everyone assisting can see the bond and step back to allow her to linger with Maggie.

Instead of walking away and going into the next lesson, Maggie waits for the gentle stroke of Barb's hand through her mane.  Barb is on the mounting ramp and Maggie stands beside her. Both are oblivious to all surrounding them. It is just Barb and Maggie sharing time.

Maggie gently lays her head in Barb's lap for some more love and takes a quick nap. This time alone - but together - is almost more beneficial to the rider than the actual riding. A bond that is strong and stays that way without any words ever being spoken.