The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Veterans Treatment Court is taking the reins on a new equine therapy program with Forever Amber Acres Animal Sanctuary (FAAAS) in Medina.
Founded in 2008, FAAAS provides refuge, rehabilitation, and permanent retirement for horses impacted by negligence and abuse. For more than ten years, they have worked with many other organizations across the country to assist in the rescue of horses bound for slaughter and export. Today, FAAAS is home to many special needs animals including seven horses.
In 2018, FAAAS began an Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program with the launch of the V.E.T.S. (Veteran’s Equine Therapy Services) program using the EAGALA (https://www.eagala.org) program model. The VTC now has a contract to make use of the therapy program.
“It made so much sense to incorporate the therapeutic potential of these horses into the VTC,” says Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) Judge John J. Russo. “In many cases, our clients have serious emotional issues, and it’s amazing to see them react to the intuitive power that horses have for people in need.”
Under the program, VTC clients will have the opportunity to identify, explore, and solve a variety of psychological and physical challenges through the process of human to horse bonding.
“Our Court is constantly looking at new options to assist people who find themselves in the criminal justice system,” says Administrative and Presiding Judge Brendan J. Sheehan. “I never thought we would have some of our defendants working with horses, but I look forward to seeing how these incredible animals can assist our veterans.”
The Court’s two-year pilot program with Forever Amber allows up to five veterans participating in VTC to receive six equine-assisted psychotherapy sessions.