Mental Health

Meet The Horses Helping Veterans To Heal

A charity is connecting veterans struggling because of mental health issues with horses to promote confidence.

HorseHeard uses the animals based at the Merrist Wood College to create calmness and aid the veterans' emotional wellbeing.

"[Veterans] have experiences deep inside them, which perhaps other people cannot understand," said Andrew McFarlane, Chairman of HorseHeard.

However, horses seem to be good companions for ex-personnel dealing with mental health issues.

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Horses at the Merrist Wood College are helping veterans.

Jeffrey Stockwell served in the military for 16 years before an accident left him permanently blind.

Mr Stockwell and his dog Twyford are in their fourth week of the HorseHeard programme.

"If I am really calm, then they are calm," said Mr Stockwell talking about his service dog and the horse.

"[The horse] just bent down and they gave each other a kiss," he said with a smile.

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Jeffrey Stockwell is in his fourth week of the HorseHeard programme.

Andy Newell was in the parachute regiment for most of his career, but after leaving the Army in 2010 it was difficult for him to get back into civilian life.

When he joined the HorseHeard programme, he did not trust horses. That has changed dramatically.

He was very wary of horses, but he said the programme allowed him to relax a lot more:

"I destress when I am with the horses. I find it very therapeutic."

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Andy Newell was first very wary of horses.

Alan Walker served in the military for 24 years.

He had a horse growing up and spending time with the animals he has loved since a young age has helped his recovery.

"There is a part that goes down the back of the horse, just above the neck muscle... you do not have to press hard, just put your fingers there and leave it, and the horse starts to relax," he explained.

"Not only you are destressing the horse, but yourself as well."

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Alan Walker demonstrates what is the spot to touch to destress horses.

The charity has been helping anyone in need all over the United Kingdom for five years, but going forward with the veteran programme will require funding.

Compared to the financial, social and emotional cost of supporting jobless or isolated veterans, the cost of the programme is "repaid many times over", said Mr McFarlane.

"It helps them moving towards a settled, civilian life."

The use of horses to assist with mental health treatment continues to grow and so far it has positively changed the lives of many.

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