What Is the Equus Effect?
It is a group that uses horses to help people overcome trauma. Horses are remarkably hyper-vigilant animals, not least because they can sense heart rates, breathing, and muscle tension from some 30 feet away. So when veterans, equally as vigilant, work with this animal, the horse serves to naturally reflect their inner states.
This reflection, steps toward healing trauma, happens at The Equus Effect, which is a non-profit founded in 2005. Working on their breathtaking acreage in Sharon, founders Jane Strong, a former competitive rider and resident, and David Sonatore, LCSW, help people overcome trauma by rebuilding emotional resilience and healthy relationships through on-ground activities with the horses.
About four years ago, they turned their attention to veterans living with post-traumatic stress. “We work with invisible war wounds,” Strong says.
Many soldiers returning to civilian life experience anxiety and depression, yet have few tools to cope with re-entry. One veteran, named Mike, a career solider, enlisted in Equus’ five-week program—he was desperate to find peace. Upon retiring in 2010, his life unraveled. He says: “The first day of working with the horses I forgot what happened and felt peace.”
“During those weeks, we try to give vets the tools they need to rebuild healthy relationships so they can become contributing members of their communities,” says Strong.
Her goal is to teach this curriculum to other facilities and make it accessible to vets across the country.
The Equus Effect
37 Drum Road
Note: In addition to helping veterans, they also have programs for military families, individuals in recovery, women in unhealthy relationships and others. The program for veterans is free.