After a dear family member was injured in a bomb attack in Afghanistan, Craig McCalister decided to start Veterans Equine Therapeutic Services as a way to give back to the veteran community. His goal was to create a zero-cost opportunity for veterans dealing with mental health issues and other difficulties.
Craig is a veteran himself - he retired in 2011 as a Chief Petty Officer, after serving 10 years with the U.S. Navy and 14 years with the U.S. Coast Guard. Along with the many volunteers and staff at V.E.T.S. that are veterans as well, he understands the challenges veterans face reintegrating into civilian life. The V.E.T.S. model is that veterans should be supporting veterans.
“The common bonds of service and sacrifice create a tight knit support mechanism that is often lost after leaving active duty,” Craig says. At V.E.T.S. there’s a feeling of community that helps veterans in their adjustment back to civilian life. As they participate in Equine Facilitated Learning, not only do they improve their physical, emotional, social well-being, they also grow and develop life skills.
The current Equine Facilitated Learning Program offers classes in eight week sessions - teaching basics like horse communication, barn safety, herd dynamics, leading and grooming techniques, and energy work. Many veterans often come with little to no horse experience, and this program builds a strong foundation of horsemanship and safety.
“Every day a veteran shows up at the barn is a success story,” Craig recounts. “The struggles that many in the veteran community deal with every day make it difficult to function normally in society. We know how difficult it can be for our community to navigate the many issues they are working through. Seeing our program grow and providing great opportunities to our Vets is our greatest success.”
The program at V.E.T.S. has incredible benefits - reduced tension and anxiety, increased self-esteem and self-confidence, improved balance, breathing, and coordination, and even better memory. As participants learn to care for and communicate with the horse, they develop a stronger work ethic, enhance self-awareness, and come to understand the role of non-verbal communication in interactions both with humans, and horses.
V.E.T.S. is partnered with their sister organization, Horses Healing Humans. HHH is a Path Premier Center that owns and manages the horses used at V.E.T.S., ensuring that the veterans work with mature horses with great temperaments that can best suit their needs.
Visit their website below to donate and support V.E.T.S. in their effort to bring their valuable services to veterans at no charge to them ever.
How to Contact This Farm:
340 New London Turnpike
Stonington, CT 06378