The Ranch Boots of Honor program is recognized as a quality program meeting the needs of the military veterans, active duty, and their dependents. We are the only facility offering animal and equine assisted counseling services, as well as, therapeutic horseback riding and horsemanship in the southern region of the D/FW metroplex. We partner with other Veteran support/service groups and receive referrals from both Dallas and Fort Worth VA's, the Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base and Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Center. Many Veteran families prefer to contact us independently for services to receive much needed assistance on a personal level.
Veteran services are confidential and include Equine Assisted Counseling, Therapeutic Horsemanship Groups, Therapeutic Horseback Riding, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). Services are also available for the Veteran spouse and dependents, including Play Therapy and Animal Assisted Therapies for the youngest members of the family. Able to treat the entire family makes services here even more effective. Separate counselors, some of whom are veterans themselves, may see each family member individually, bringing them together as their sessions progress to facilitate new family dynamics. Not only is the Veteran trying to find a new "norm", but the family is as well.
Why try counseling at the Ranch? Why is it different? Veterans tell us they feel trapped in the more traditional clinical office, but feel safe at the Ranch. They lose, even if just for a while, the need to constantly be looking around for a possible threat. The Veteran is more relaxed and the focus becomes upon the relationship they are building with their chosen horse. Sessions ebb and flow with concerns and challenges surfacing naturally, instead of being forced. With many horses to choose from, finding a horse with whom the Veteran connects comes easily. Veterans have even commented on feeling more comfortable with our more relaxed western wear versus the clinical white coat.
Equine Assisted Counseling sessions begin with pasture time, where the Veteran can closely but safely observe herd dynamics. To passersby, it may seem that a herd of horses are just idly standing around, eating when they wish. The reality is that there is a hierarchy in the herd where those higher up in the herd eat before those below. Where the horses stand and with whom, can indicate their place in the herd. Hierarchy is not based upon size or power but upon strengths and jobs within the herd. The herd dynamics can easily be related to the structure of a military unit and/or the family unit. As the Veteran observes personality traits of each horse, he/she finds that the horse personalities closely resemble humans they know.
As the Veteran calmly grooms and leads their horse on Ranch nature trails, conversation comes more naturally, enabling the Veteran to slowly begin processing traumatic situations and personal challenges. The intensity of processing traumatic events can be overwhelming and the horse offers a safe companion to lean on for emotional support. The horses, and other Ranch animals, in addition to being good listeners, offer unconditional non-judgmental love and affection. The Veteran is free to discuss, process, and seek healing from trauma, finally getting relief from PTSD symptoms. Veterans report nightmares being less frequent, being able to participate in daily life, and enjoying time with family and friends.
Ranch Counseling Services are helpful for:
* Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
* Moral Injury
* Family Dysfunction
* Addictive Behaviors
* Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
* Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
* Recurring Memories
* Loss of Interest
Whether from combat trauma or another type of traumatic experience, our nervous system becomes hyperactive when triggered or activated. Unlike humans, the nervous system in other mammals can reset itself automatically after a traumatic event. Instead, the human brain automatically plans responses to everything we encounter, especially threatening events. While this can help reduce our vulnerability, it also re-traumatizes the nervous system and increases its sensitivity. We can learn from the horses. If they sense danger, they quickly assess the situation. Should danger exist, their instinct may be first to flee but then they will quietly resume grazing. They quickly return to enjoying life, taking it minute by minute. Horses can teach us how to manually regulate our nervous system.
While participants in counseling and horsemanship programs remain on the ground, much can also be gained through the Therapeutic Horseback Riding program. From a physical standpoint, riding can improve balance and coordination, as well as, strengthen back, hip, and leg muscles. Beyond safety concerns, Veterans are not required to discuss their feelings, time in combat, or how they sustained injuries. Instead, Riding Instructors use the horse's behavior to address the Veteran's anxiety, lack of emotional engagement or communication with their horse. Behavioral benefits include improving the ability to remain focused, learning to trust, and managing anger. As a non-judgmental partner, horses simply live in the moment and strive for safety, comfort and peace for themselves and those around them.
Many Veteran families suffer financially. To not add to their financial hardship, our services are free to qualifying Veterans. Proof of Veteran status, such as the DD-214, are required. For those who have sacrificed so much, we believe it is important to give back by providing our Veteran services at no cost. Dependents are served at a 50% discount.
More information regarding our Counseling Programs, Therapeutic Riding, and Horsemanship can be found on the specific services pages of our website.
Active Duty Programs
* Telehealth Counseling Services now available *
"Equine assisted therapy has been for me, as a US Army Veteran (Operation Desert Storm), both a blessing as well as an opportunity to continue serving my battle buddies at Paws for Reflection Ranch.
From a personal perspective, anxiety and helplessness/hopelessness is a very real obstacle for many Veterans, some which I, too, have struggled with since my transitioning back into civilian life. A personal struggle I have also dealt with was a loss of being part of the brotherhood which we as service members, cling to. This is obviously a widespread issue for most all prior military personnel, as well as, emotional, mental, and physical scars which can occur while in the service of our nation. The Veteran and First Responders programs at Paws aid in coping with, coming to terms with, and ultimately overcoming. Although it is a journey which must be embraced, the rewards far outweigh the work that is required.
My burden has been both emotional as well as physical, having survived an accident while on duty. Horsemanship has not only helped me to overcome the anxiety and distrust of others as a whole, but physically has aided in strengthening the areas which have for so long been a problem in fully assimilating back into my "normal life".
Because of personal experience with Equine Assisted Therapy, I now am one of the volunteers in Paws' Equine Assisted Therapy program, hoping to be part of the legacy of serving those who serve us. This is after all, what we took our paths of enlistment for - to be part of something larger than ourselves. To serve others who are in need, and to protect and defend those who we have left behind. Paws welcomes all prior services members back home from the front and paved the way for your continued success and prosperity in the next mission of your life."
James D. Snow, US Army Combat Medic, Operation Desert Storm
"I have been going to Paws for Reflection for a little over a year now and equine therapy has helped me with my anger and communication issues. I have been working with Elissa and India, both are very helpful and great at what they do. The rest of the Paws for Reflection staff has also been very helpful when needed. This is a great place for everyone especially military veterans such as myself." David A.
"My family and I started going to equine therapy after we saw little progress with traditional talk therapy. Being a military family with combat-related PTSD and being a Gold Star family who experienced a combat-related death, we were in desperate need of help. While I was skeptical at first, their therapists quickly put our minds and hearts at ease with their demonstration of professionalism and compassion. We overcame many family obstacles in months, versus the years we sat in an office. The interaction with the horses was life-changing for our family. These horses became a part of our healing with greater impact than I could ever imagine. It impacted me so greatly, I was able to move forward and write a book about my healing journey after losing my brother in Afghanistan. PAWS was instrumental in that healing process. I can't thank them enough for the love and care and generosity to our veterans that they share." Renee N.
"This is a place of healing and bonding where learning the skills needed to combat PTSD are taught. Thank you Paws for Reflection Ranch, Sarah, and Cherokee for helping me through this rocky time in my life and for continuing to help my brothers and sisters in arms. You Rock!!!" Scott N.
In an interview with the media, Lavon J. said he struggled with a drug addiction until he entered the Boots of Honor program and was paired with Thunder. "I have a real bond with this horse. I can come in here and talk to them about anything. They pick up on what you feel, said Lavon." He went on to say having that connection with Thunder is what motivates him to stay clean every week so he can return. "This program saved my life," Lavon said. Lavon J.
Working in a group provided a major change for Charles S. "I'm kind of a gypsy," said Charles as he slowly stroked the side of his horse Tristen. "I don't have many relationships in my life family-wise. Just to come out here once a week and have something to take care of helps me come out of my shell," said Charles. Since starting the program, he became more involved with volunteer and community events at the Liberty House and is able to handle the problems in his life, he said. "It takes me away to a different place and puts everything in focus because they are so gentle and peaceful", he said looking at Tristen with misty eyes. Charles S.
"What a great place for everyone! I love it out at the ranch and the Veterans that I have had the honor of being out there with, have loved it and had a great time as well. What an awesome group of people, animal partners and amazing programs!" Stacy K.
Services are FREE to qualifying Veterans
and discounted for Veteran dependents.
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Paws for Reflection Ranch is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) charitable organization
USDA Licensed Class C Exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act