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One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding Where Every Friday is Veterans Day
One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding Where Every Friday is Veterans Day
As the early morning sun casts long shadows across the ranch, horses have finished eating their hay and volunteers have cleaned corrals, and the focus of attention shifts to the men and women arriving by car, van and motorcycles. It’s another great Friday because every Friday is Veterans Day at One Step Closer Ranch.
One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding is an adaptive horseback riding program, established in 2006, to assist children and adults with special needs in their developmental goals. Autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, ADD, ADHD, developmental delays, and spinal cord injuries are just some of the diagnoses of the riders enrolled at One Step Closer. Adaptive horseback riding lessons are designed to assist with physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development goals of each individual.
In the summer of 2013, One Step Closer signed a formal agreement with Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System to provide equine assisted therapy to military veterans recovering from the
physical and emotional trauma of war. Each Friday, groups of veterans accompanied by V.A. therapists visit One Step Closer to participate in various equine activities designed to assist with their recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One Step Closer founder and Program Director Landa Keirstead teaches horsemanship skills ranging from grooming to groundwork to riding. These equine assisted therapy lessons are supported by experienced volunteers trained by One Step Closer and V.A. therapists.
The Veterans program is off to a tremendous start. In just the first year, One Step Closer served more than 75 U.S. Veterans. According to Keirstead, whose father was in the military, “This touches my heart. Here I am with the
horse knowledge, working alongside a V.A. psychotherapist who is an expert in her work. The therapist said it had been a long time since she had seen the Veterans’ faces light up like they did during their time with our horses. This is a great partnership that has exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
The Veterans that participate at One Step Closer have camaraderie with each other, even though their ages may vary. Some Veterans fought in the jungles of Vietnam, others in Desert Storm, and others in more recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This gave me a chance to slow down and pay attention to another beauty in life”, wrote one young Veteran of his first time at One Step Closer. “Walking, riding, and grooming seems like work to some. Only this was so much more meaningful to me than that. This program is extremely beneficial to any recovery program.”
Equine assisted therapy teaches Veterans how to be assertive without being aggressive. It teaches non-verbal communication, trust, behavioral cause-and-effect with another being, and it motivates them to invest in their own recovery and well-being. Veterans must be clean and sober to participate. And learning how to move and bond with this 1000 lb animal is empowering and builds self-esteem.
When Vietnam-Veteran Gregg first introduced himself at One Step Closer, he said “I don’t trust people. I trust horses because they won’t lie.” Now one year into the
program, Gregg and a few other Veterans arrive two hours early so they can assist new Veterans just getting started. They have the opportunity to “give back”, working side-by-side to help fellow Veterans.
One Step Closer is a member of the newly formed Foundations of Recovery Stakeholders Committee created by Veterans Affairs Menlo Park. This is a committee composed of V.A. staff and alternative therapy programs, all collaborating to bring to Veterans the best care possible. One Step Closer also partners with the U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services to offer respite events for Gold Star Families and Children of Fallen Soldiers.
These services are offered free of charge to the Veterans. “They’ve already paid enough”, says OSC Co-Founder Mark Keirstead. “It was our intention from the start that we support the military
community without fees. Operating expenses for the military services are covered by donations and grants.” The PFC Michael Kennedy Scholarship Fund was established so that donors can designate their contributions to the military program. PFC Michael Kennedy, uncle of Landa Keirstead, was killed in action in Korea. Donations to the PFC Michael Kennedy Scholarship Fund make it possible for active military and veterans to experience all the benefits of this therapeutic riding program.
One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding is a 501c3 non-profit organization, located at 15770 Foothill Avenue in Morgan Hill, and a center member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH).
For more information about One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding, visit www.osctr.org, or email email@example.com. Be sure to like their Facebook page for regular updates on events https://www.facebook.com/OneStepCloserTherapeuticRiding.
Business Directory “Select Category” – California Horse Directory
Lending a Helping Horse – Hans van Randwijk
Lending a helping horse
BY SPENCER VAISHVILLE
Approved by Hans van Randwijk
It’s hard to talk about certain things to even the closest of friends or family members. The most horrible of offenses or ailments people suffer with day to day—things like the loss of a family member or close friend, eating disorders, war, or rape—aren’t one-time conversations people can just have and then move on from. We may not be comfortable opening up to other human beings about certain things, but what about a horse?
Hans van Randwijk, from the Netherlands, offers a program called “Horses Helping Humanity” that aims to help trauma victims, struggling families, and everyday individuals improve their communication and life skills and, most importantly, their attitude about themselves. Sometimes just the thought of talking to another person can trigger fears of judgment and humiliation, but a conversation with a horse is an entirely different experience altogether.
“Your body language is so important. In a split moment, horses tell me who you are because they have no agenda. The horses are respectful and consistent; they can look inside people and see all of the anger, the aggressiveness, the behavioral issues, everything,” Randwijk said.
He’s been working with horses for more than 35 years and received his certificate as an equine educator during his 10 years in the Netherlands.
He later spent time in Ireland in the private sector helping people train their horses, while also traveling to learn from other health and equine specialists like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ariana Strozzi, and Dr. Allen Hamilton.
To further his studies, Randwijk attended 15 two-week courses in the U.K., Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal to help certify him as an equine therapist, coach, trainer, and facilitator. While he was still in the Netherlands, he worked at the Dutch Police College where he spent time counseling the officers who had seen the worst in training.
“Every month I had a group of police officers, and even some of the toughest guys with over 25 years of work experience cried. There was an emotional breakthrough with the horses because they allow me to be very gentle,” Randwijk said.
A couple of months ago, he moved to Arroyo Grande, where he lives on a quaint, peaceful plot with gardens, a stone pizza-oven, a tree house, and his two horses. Angel walks excitedly as Randwijk approaches her, but once Randwijk stands in front of her and puts his gentle hands on her side, she becomes perfectly still with her eyes locked on his.
Pita looks over from his stall and longingly waits for a visitor—and a few pats on his forehead.
Alexis King recently graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in graphic design, and when she’s not volunteering at Options Family Health Services or taking care of developmentally disabled adults, she’s helping Randwijk with some of the day-to-day operations.
“The whole experience of working with the horses makes me think of something my dad always told me: ‘The 11th commandment is thou shall not bullshit thyself.’ The program is about you facing yourself, and it can be hard to really see, love, and accept yourself,” King said.
Randwijk makes no exceptions to character when it comes to the kinds of people who can benefit from his services. He recently put together a program called Horses Helping Inmates and submitted it to the San Luis Obispo Men’s Colony where he’s hoping for an opportunity to counsel. He’s also looking forward to working with the Committee of Veterans in Bakersfield and counseling some of their veterans toward the end of June.
“I hope to help make people aware of who they are and what they are, so that their perspective can change. Some people might think their perspective is good enough, but I hope they can see things from a different perspective—one that’s more from the heart and not the eyes,” Randwijk said. If talking to people about your personal life isn’t in your comfort zone, give Randwijk and his horses a try at info@leadrope or call – 805-835-7065
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