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Horseback riding therapy for war veterans

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

If dogs are man's best friend, few will argue that horses aren't far behind, especially anyone at Saddle Rock Ranch.

Suffolk County and Brookhaven officials announced a new therapeutic horse riding program that will bring the thrill of the saddle to active duty or no longer serving military men and women.

"A lot of the guys get their comfort from these animals from coming out and brushing them down or working on their saddlery, just doing things," Thomas Ronayne of the Suffolk County Veterans Agency. "Just the interaction alone is where the benefit comes from."

The horses work in a capacity that offers a mix of unconditional trust and affection, helping the rider escape whatever horrors of war they may still carry.

Timothy Strobel, who served in Iraq, nearly lost a leg and still suffers from PTSD. Strobel said none of that matters when he's here.

"They're nonjudgmental, they're good listeners," Strobel said. "We take care of them, groom them. They can rely on us, we can rely on them. It's sort of like a very, very large battle buddy. You can trust them 100 percent."

Daniel Oritheneer learned the meaning of 100 percent trust quickly. This was his first time ever riding a horse.

"It's a little different than what I thought it was," he said. "The skin is slightly rough. And it's kind of exhilarating. But I liked it."

And the program's organizers hope more of this country's heroes will like it as well. As protecting America's freedom can leave scars, but if using horses can help heal war wounds it's the very least that we can do.

"I think that this is a great way to bring them back down to what they have experienced in the past," Oritheneer said. "And just kind of let them know that everything is going be alright. Just kind of create that relaxed atmosphere."

In addition to our country's warriors, this program is also for persons with disabilities or special needs.

LINK: SADDLE ROCK RANCH

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