Horses can sense one’s deepest emotions. 

Jodi Kelley, and her husband Chris, have begun offering therapy horse sessions for local Veterans at Rock Run Animal Rescue in Newville. The Kelleys organized a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new program Saturday with volunteers, local Veterans, and of course, Buddy.

The pair will provide weekly therapy sessions with a rescued horse named Buddy in order that Veterans, many who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, will feel less alone, and hopefully help to reduce the suicide rate among Veterans.

The couple brainstormed the positive idea after they endured a tragic event of their own … the suicide of their daughter, Lindsay.

“Horses have become the focus. Buddy has special qualities, and he really is a gem,” Jodi said in opening remarks Saturday. 

Kyra Paules, chair of the therapy horse program committee, also revealed a new barn quilt to be placed on Buddy’s run-shed. 

“Veterans have the highest rate of suicide. They feel hopeless, lost and alone, and horses can always relate,” Paules said.

Desert Storm Army Veteran Steven Reed cut the ceremonial ribbon, and hoisted an American Flag to be saluted while 11-year-old Preston Kuhn played the Star-Spangled Banner on his baritone horn. Kuhn was assisted by his cousin, Bailey Trimble, 5, and sister Willow Riel, 8. 

“I think this is awesome,” said Reed, who served for about a decade from 1984 to 1993. “Vets need help, because there is a lot of suicide out there. This is a great thing, and I hope it blows up.” 

He added that Veterans can travel to the Cumberland County VA Clinic in Mechanicsburg, or VA Medical Center in Lebanon to receive help, but this new option will provide a more local option. Veterans will now be able to reduce anxiety level, and escape from reality through therapy, rather than reach for alcohol or drugs. 

“I thank them for what they’re doing. They are doing this on their own time, rather than doing something else,” he said.

Kelly Dworak, a Desert Storm Army Veteran who served actively from 1986 to 1993, said this program will help Veterans who might be struggling silently with depression and PTSD.

“This is something that is a need, and will fill a void. I hope Veterans that are in need will take advantage,” she said.  

Dawn Parker, equine specialist (horse handler), will lead hour-long, one-on-one weekly therapy sessions with Veterans. Once the Veterans reach a point of comfort, she hopes to lead group sessions. 

Sessions can be set up any day of the week. However, a weekday session must be scheduled after 4:30 p.m.

While this program is intended for Veterans, Parker also hopes to offer these sessions to anyone in the community in the future. 

If interested in setting up a session with Buddy and Parker, call (717) 636-1452, or email: rockrunanimalrescue@gmail.com.

Buddy

The Kelleys saved Buddy from being sent to a kill pen in February of 2017. At the time, he was malnourished, about 300 pounds underweight.

The Kelleys had 24 hours to create a habitat for Buddy, and they accomplished their rescue. Since 2017, Buddy has gained weight, and has built trust in humans. Now, he is on a mission to provide a level of comfort, confidence and hope to local Veterans as Rock Run's main therapy horse, having already spent time with children, ages 9 to 12, in sessions called “Bonding with Buddy.”

Chris Reed said a therapy dog makes people happy, while a therapy horse is not necessarily charged with this responsibility. A therapy horse is intended to be a calm listener, and sense when something is wrong. 

“Vets will be able to talk to Buddy. He won't judge. He won't tell anyone. But, he will remember,” Chris said. “He won’t see you as bad or good. It is what it is.”

Parker added that Buddy will help reduce anxiety, as well as a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. 

The animal rescue facility is located at 4033 Enola Road in Newville, and has been helping as many animals as possible since 2012. 

The Hamilton-Myers VFW Post 6070 has committed a $500 donation to the program, according to Commander Don Flagle, who was also in attendance. 

To learn more about Rock Run Animal Rescue, visit: www.rockrunanimalrescue.org.

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