Veterans get free horse therapy in Clackamas County

Therapy program is free for veterans under new grant

Vietnam veteran Scott Searles said horse therapy saved his life. February 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Vietnam veteran Scott Searles said horse therapy saved his life. February 23, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

CLACKAMAS CO., Ore. (KOIN 6) — A group of horses is helping some Clackamas County veterans with a new therapy program. And thanks to a new city grant, the therapy is free.

Horse therapy is relatively new. Instructors at Oregon City’s Sycamore Lane Therapeutic Riding Center said it teaches people leadership, patience and affection. Vietnam veteran Scott Searles will also tell you, it saved his life.

Searles was drafted in 1969.

“I just threw my hands in the air and said, let’s get it over with,” Searles said. He served three years in Vietnam and, admittedly, had a hard time readjusting back home.

Six months of horse therapy and the 64-year-old is smiling again.

“The therapy through the horses, the people who work here and the combination of doing counseling, I believe, it saved Scott’s life,” Scott’s wife, Cathy, said. “And it guided us so we could be married.”

The pair wed over the weekend and Scott is just one of up to 60 veterans in Sycamore Lane’s new program. It can cost more than $400 for a week-long session, but Oregon City just gave the riding center a $15,000 grant so any veteran can ride for free.

“Some of the veterans, we see the changes the first day,” Veteran Coordinator Lisa Goebel explained.

While the group’s 15 horses might be rescuing Veterans, the facility saved some of the animals from abuse to give them the gift of freedom that Scott Searles already gave up for all of us.

“We teach the veterans to work in a partnership with the horse to become a leader and earn that trust,” Goebel said.

“Help is out there,” Searles said. “You should get it; don’t run and hide.”

You can learn about the veterans and other riders on the facility’s website. They posted their story to raise donations for a campaign called Drive to Ride, along with the grant, to earn scholarships and continue therapy.

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