By Lori Newman, Brooke Army Medical Center Public AffairsNovember 19, 2015
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 19, 2015) -- Transitioning warriors have a plethora of activities to choose from in the Soldier Adaptive Reconditioning Program, but only one involves a 1,000-pound animal.
Soldiers, from Brooke Army Medical Center's Warrior Transition Battalion, have the opportunity to go horseback riding at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Equestrian Center every Tuesday.
Part of the equine therapy is learning to care for and bond with the animal as well as ride, said Annie Blakely, who is a certified and registered Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, or PATH, instructor. PATH is a global authority, resource and advocate for equine-assisted activities and therapies.
According to the Equine Assisted Therapy website, this type of therapy can help people both physically and mentally by improving respiration, circulation, balance, metabolism, muscle strength and agility.
Army Staff Sgt. Cedric Richardson never rode a horse before he started the program three months ago.
"When I came out here I'm having fun with the animal, but I'm also taking care of the animal," Richardson said. "I'm learning a new skill, horseback riding. It's unique and different if you haven't grown up doing it."
Richardson usually rides Gary. "I think he's one of the biggest horses out here. He's very energetic and he has the muscle to match, so you have to really know what you are doing and have confidence when you ride him," he said.
"When I bring people out here [to the equestrian center] I see their inner child come out because they relax and they really enjoy being around the animals," said Brad Bowen, Military Adaptive Sports Program coordinator.
"It gives me a little bit of release from the Army-side. I get to come out here and just enjoy being outside and with my favorite animal," Army Pvt. Ashiah Moshauer said.
"I love the animals; they seem to be so intuitive of what you are feeling. It's nice to able to take a step back; it creates a sense of mindfulness," said Army Sgt. Andrea Kraus as she agreed with her fellow Service members.
Adaptive horseback riding is just one of several options the transitioning Soldiers can participate in during their recovery.
"The Soldier Adaptive Reconditioning Program [SARP] offers Soldiers the opportunity to get out and do what they really like to do as part of their recovery," Bowen said.
SARP offers more than 15 different options for transitioning warriors including high-impact, high-energy activities such as wheelchair basketball, cycling and track and field, as well as low-impact options such as brain games, chess or arts and crafts.
"SARP is designed to get Soldiers active during their transition. They are required to participate 150 minutes a week in one or more of our activities," Bowen said. "We try to incorporate almost any activity that you can think of or anyone wants to do into our program."
To fulfill the requirement of 150 minutes per week, activities are held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and there are different programs each month. Soldiers participate in their physical training and can pick other activities.