Warriors In Step with Horses
TRI is proud to be offering Equine Assisted Counseling services to Veterans and First Responders. Warriors In Step with Horses (W.I.S.H.) is a unique program designed to help Warriors:
Decrease feelings of isolation through peer support
Learn self regulation through equine interaction and communication
Come to an awareness and acceptance of emotions while developing a better sense of control through experiential activities with the herd
Reduce feelings of anxiety about the past and future by learning to live in the moment
Warriors In Step with Horses is facilitated by a highly credentialed team consisting of:
Gretchen Brocwell, LPCC, Eagala Mental Health Specialist, Star Behavioral Healthcare Provider
Tim Spradlin, Veteran and Retired First Responder, Ohio Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, Eagala Equine Specialist with Military Designation
One of TRI’s PATH certified Equine Specialists in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL)
TRI is honored to offer this service free of charge to their participants.
Interested in participating? Join our herd today!
As a young high school high school athlete from Covington Kentucky, Donnie dreamed of being awarded a scholarship and playing college level sports. Sadly, his dream never came to reality, leaving Donnie feeling empty and hopeless after graduating high school. That is, until he met an Army recruiter and enlisted in the military.
Donnie served in the Army from 1977-1983, stationed right on the communist border of Germany and what was then referred to as Czechoslovakia. He was on the front-line expecting war, and witnessed American hostages being taken by Iran. “We were on Red Alert on the Czech border…The Iranian government took about 250 hostages in the American Embassy in Tehran.” According to Donnie, he picked up some bad habits to cope with his traumatic experiences, including drinking and drug use.
After leaving the military, Donnie started a family and worked in the manufacturing industry where he made tires for trucks before losing his job due to his alcohol addiction. He then worked for eight years as a safety manager in a family aerospace manufacturing company and sadly lost his job abruptly due to a failed drug test.
Donnie became addicted to pain pills and estranged from his daughter who he hasn’t seen in fifteen years and has four grandkids that he has never met due to his alcoholism. He eventually lost his apartment and resorted to couch surfing and then living in his niece’s basement. Fortunately for Donnie, his niece discovered Joseph House and enrolled him immediately.
Shortly after moving to Joseph House, his counselor approached him about participating in TRI’s Warriors In Step with Horses (WISH) program. Having grown up in Kentucky, Donnie has spent plenty of time around horses. But until being part of WISH, he never realized how sensitive horses are, and how powerful they are in helping to “put down” our problems.
When Donnie first arrived at Joseph House he claims that he “didn’t take their programs too seriously until attending the WISH program.” With 40 guys living there, he didn’t want to talk feelings and cry around other men. By getting out to TRI and being in fresh air once a week with the horses and small group of other veterans, he felt safe opening up. “Through WISH, we’re a tight-knit group.” This helped embrace his recovery and entire experience at Joseph House.
According to Donnie, “I Learned about my higher power and take things one day at a time. The horses taught me how to meditate, how to approach things, and how to leave things behind. I Learned to take things easier and not get upset. And I brought that back here to Joseph House. I gained a lot of positivity and learned that we’re all herd animals. I’ve also learned to get out around Joseph House and talk to people. I have my own little herd around here. We keep an eye on each other.”
Donnie goes to AA meetings every day at Joseph House, as well as other meetings around Cincinnati. Earlier in November, he received his 90-day coin, and on Giving Tuesday, he is celebrating 100 days living at Joseph House and being drug and alcohol free. He is an active community member at Joseph House and in charge of organizing clothing and food donations for veterans in the program.
TRI is honored to be part this major milestone in Donnie’s recovery. While Donnie is sad that his WISH session has come to an end, he said that he recommends the program to anyone who would want to participate and plans to come back next session as an ambassador. He ultimately plans to volunteer for TRI when he has transitioned out of Joseph House and has his own place.