Horses, nature lend outlet to first responders and veterans
JERSEY SHORE — In some professions, traumatic scenes, experiences and situations come with the job, so to speak.
Sorting out one’s emotions and replaying events in the mind can have a tremendous affect on people. Finding an outlet or coping mechanism to handle feelings can be hard.
Veterans and first-responders are known to have experienced things that can cause emotional and mental distress.
At Woodland View Adventures Inc., a non-profit program that is part of Woodland View Stables, 719 Canoe Run Road, is a program made to give these brave men and women the break they may need.
The program is described as using the “human and horse connection, team building and creative problem solving to create a bond with the horse that will inspire personal growth.”
Adding the great outdoors, participants — first responders and veterans — will feel empowered with a new sense of self-worth and leave with new friends and outlets to express and deal with difficult emotions.
“We have had horses my entire life,” said Shane Newvine, one-half of the idea maker of the program and 25-year paramedic.
The fourth generation farm is 155 acres that include barns, riding arena, pasture, trails and a campsite. This is where Newvine and friend and veteran Jeff Rembold, a third ranger battalion for 20 years, brainstormed.
The stable already hosts various types of trail rides and special events open to the public, but after spending time in the saddle and by the fire, Rembold and Newvine wanted to create something more.
So with help from Tanera Verne, Newvine’s, fiance and stable manager and additional staff, the program was being built.
“We all knew some people that could use a little bit of a break,” Newvine said. “We formed a non-profit and that is what brought us to this program design.”
Woodland View Adventures Inc., is open to all veterans, first responders, ER staff and any emergency service persons. As they enter this five phase program, they will experience a variety of team building exercises and camaraderie with others in hopes it acts as a healing or coping mechanism.
“Everyone is dealing with the same issues, just for a different reason. We thought that a type of diversity might actually be pretty cool, and helpful. So far it has generated some interesting conversations on the trail ride,” Newvine said.
Recently participants of the first phase of the program, two first-responders and two veterans, dove right in.
Early morning in the barn, the group filed in for introductions and work began.
The horses needed fed, groomed and prepped before the ride could begin, and the participants were a key part in that, learning and bonding with their horses.
Once the work is done, the horses are saddled, ridden a bit to make all participants comfortable and then the group heads to the trail. They separated out into groups or teams and begin the trek to the campsite at the top of the mountain.
Along the way, participants learn more about their horse, bonding with the animal and nature.
Newvine and Verne also hope they strike up conversation with their team members, forming an acquaintance with them also.
“They then have to find items on the way up they will use at the campsite,” Newvine said.
In two artillery boxes, hidden along the trail, are all the items needed for the team to create a fire primitively when they get there.
“The food goes up ahead of time, but they have to work together to start a fire so they can have lunch,” Newvine said.
The group arrives, dismounts and proceeds to the fire pit where chairs surround it. Working together they have to open the boxes and create fire.
“Once we get there, the conversation starts,” Verne said, as that is a big part of what this program is about.
“Basically they spend an hour or two sitting around the campfire, eating and talking. People ask about their service and how long they have been a paramedic, things like that,” he said.
Emily Ditmar, of Muncy, and a Army National Guard veteran, found a bond with a horse, her team and the staff of the program that day.
“It’s important,” she said of the program.
“It gets you around other people, and they can feel a bond when they get there, the horses just add to that. They are like therapy animals, that is so important. It is like a little family, and I don’t even know anyone here,” she said.
Michael Lundy, of Williamsport, and 32-year Air Force veteran, rode with Joe Mitchell, of Citizen Hose Company of Jersey Shore, on the way up the mountain.
Although they are of two different professions and backgrounds, they shared what they have experienced through the military and first responders, among many other things they had in common.
“I am fortunate to have found this and I will be back,” Lundy said. “First responders see a lot of things. Every where from flooding to fires. I spent a little over eight months in Iraq and you see things, whether it’s trauma or just people not having a good experience. So it is nice to come out, be outside. Come and decompress. This is so much of a emerging experience and a good time for fellowship,” Lundy said.
Mitchell agreed — it was a way to get away from the daily grind.
“Veterans are looking at it from one perspective and the first responders are looking at from another, but realizing they are dealing with the same stuff in their head, just from a different situation,” Newvine said.
Some of the after effects of people experiencing trauma or harsh situations are mental issues. Here, at Woodland View Adventures the staff hopes that participants find an outlet to cope, and maybe a new friend or group to support them through tough times.
“We are really looking at (in some situations) PTSD and clinical depression. Twenty-two vets a day committing suicide and the newest numbers is at about seven to eight for first responders (a day),” he said. “Vets who are deployed to a war zone or the first responders that are dealing with life or death every day. We are trying to give them an outlet, as well as maybe help one person not end up with one of these diagnoses. Those things can follow you through life and limit (ones) ability to do things.”
Going out and riding these trails on the farm has really been an outlet for Newvine throughout his years of being a paramedic. He knows first hand that when a bad day can end atop a horse, engulfed in nature, it can help clear the head.
“Horses are very therapeutic. We are not trying to cure or treat anything, we are just giving them an outlet,” Verne said.
When Rembold would join Newvine on rides, they both knew this was good. This was good for the mind and the soul, and they really wanted to be able to share this with others who needed it, too.
The Woodland View Adventures program continues with four other phases. Newvine said on ce they have funding participants will be able to continue on.
Mike Zurinsky, of the Montoursville Willing Hose Hand Co., arrived at the program a little reluctant at first.
“I decided that instead of riding I might just muck stables, maybe,” he said.
A week before it was time he just thought he would jump in, come and ride.
“It is an awesome experience, I am so glad I came to do this. After 30 years I finally got to ride a horse,” he said.
It was more than that long-awaited horse ride for Zurinsky.
“It helps you get reconnected, when you can’t reconnect with anything else,” he said.
Those who are interested in the Woodland View Adventures can contact them via email at Woodlandviewadventures@yahoo.com or by calling 570-279-0799.