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VA provides $303,570 for Eagala Military Services Programs Serving Veterans

by | Oct 3, 2020 | Eagala News

VA provides $303,570 for Eagala Military Services Programs Serving Veterans 


Eagala will receive $303,570 of the new round of funding from the Veterans Administration Adaptive Sports Grant to fund services that have been shown to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of veterans across the United States. This funding will serve veterans from October 2020 – September 2021 through Eagala Military Services designated programs to address trauma and other mental health needs. 


Eagala is excited to partner with the VA as an awardee of this grant for its third consecutive year.  Together we can continue to make an impact of positive life changes for these heroes and their families as evidenced by Eagala’s program evaluation clinical outcomes which are showing significantly positive results. 


The following is a powerful story of an Air Force Veteran and her father who experienced multi-generational healing through the Eagala Model thanks to the funding from the VA Adaptive Sports Grant. 


A female Veteran of the Air Force, “Jennifer” (not client’s real name), sought out Eagala on the recommendation of her local VA to work through a painful past experience involving military sexual trauma (MST).  She found EquiTeam Support Services in Pennsylvania, an Eagala Military Services Designated Program. 


When Jennifer began Eagala sessions, she was not able to even put words to her trauma – that she was raped. She avoided talking about it and deflected constantly. Through the Eagala Model, where the focus is kept on the horse, she was able to begin telling her story through them. 


She identified and processed through her trauma that had paralyzed her for almost 20 years. No one in her family knew what had happened to her all that time.  Jennifer was able to receive 8 sessions paid for and supported by Eagala’s VA Adaptive Sports Grant. Afterwards she was finally able to verbalize her trauma, and share what had happened to her, with her father and mother in the safety of an Eagala Model session for the first time in 20 years. 


Jennifer has since shared with her treatment team that because of her Eagala counseling, she was finally able to write down her trauma narrative through a writing workshop. This was the first time that she was able to write the words “I was raped.” Following this, Jennifer attended another event where she stood up and verbally shared her story – she was finally able to say the words “I was raped” out loud to a crowd of people. 


She chose Eagala initially because she had always had a connection with animals. She never thought that horses could bring her so much peace. Because of her experience, Jennifer encouraged friends who were also suffering to participate in Eagala Model services. But she didn’t stop there…she also convinced her father to try it as well.


Jennifer’s father is a Vietnam Veteran who, like so many Veterans of his era, returned home from war to be met with little to no resources to help him adjust to life after the experience of combat and one of the worst and most brutal wars in U.S. history. 


He attended 8 Eagala sessions through Eagala’s VA Adaptive Sports Grant funding. 


Upon the completion of his treatment, he shared that nothing he had tried throughout his entire life had worked or helped him as much as Eagala and that he had been carrying around his trauma for over 50 years!  


After 8 Eagala sessions, Jennifer’s father shared that he was “good to go”. Not only was he able to finally address and accept the trauma that he experienced  in Vietnam, but he also reported feeling a new sense of peace as an 80 year old man moving toward the end of his own life. 


Thanks to Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr’s (KY-06) tireless support of Eagala and equine-assisted services as a whole, $1.5 million was specifically designated to be used in the VA Adaptive Sports Grant to address trauma and mental health needs through equines.  Eagala is one of 14 organizations that is participating in this designated funding. 


Eagala Military Services Designated programs have facilitation teams of licensed mental health professionals and certified equine professionals who work in partnership with horses to provide services.  The Eagala Military Services Designation was created as a way of setting and maintaining the standard of clinical training and cultural competence required to effectively work with military populations in a mental health setting.  There are currently 42 programs in the US that have earned the Eagala MilitaryServices Designation.


“Eagala is proud to be the only equine-assisted mental health organization in the industry to put forth and maintain these critically important clinical and cultural competence standards,” Lynn Thomas, Eagala CEO said. “This grant will enable us to grow our programs providing this effective approach serving veterans.”


Halina Kowalski, Eagala Military Services Director, led the grant effort and oversees its management and coordinates program evaluation and treatment outcomes-based projects in collaboration with the Eagala Military Services network. According to Kowalski, “Very early preliminary program evaluation outcomes from prior years of our ASG funded programming are showing that Veterans are experiencing a clinically meaningful reduction of PTSD symptoms and their quality of life is significantly increasing as well. We are expecting to see this trend continue and we have plans for future research projects and publication.”

In the Eagala Model, all work is done in relationship with horses exclusively on the ground. It is a specific mental health treatment protocol incorporating horses provided by an Eagala Certified team of mental health professional and equine specialist. It is effective because it embraces the science that humans learn best by doing. The model prescribes a hands-on approach where veterans are given the space to project and analyze their situations, make connections, and find their own solutions. 


How do horses help the process? Horses are a prey animal, and as a result, they are hyper-sensitive to their environment, something that veterans relate to. As a result of their sensitivity, horses respond in ways that provide feedback to the veterans of relationships in their lives, whether it be with others, their environment, or themselves. Horses provide an emotionally safe way to work through and strengthen these relationships. 


Veterans engage in hands-on work with horses which removes much of the perceived stigma associated with traditional talk therapy treatment methods. When treatment is about doing, it’s more engaging, and engagement increases impact. Data is showing that this population is more likely to start and complete treatment with this model than traditional therapy in an office.  




To become an Eagala Military Services Designated Program, or see the latest list of Eagala Military Services Designated programs in your area, visit http://eagala.org/military


Eagala Military Designated Programs eligible Under the VA Grant:


AZ The Heart of the Matter in Chandler, AZ
CA Reins of H.O.P.E in Ojai, CA
CA Rise Canyon Ranch in Orange, CA
CT Equine Expressions in North Branford, CT
Courageous Hearts Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Learning Center in Lincoln, DE
FL Healing Hearts Therapies and Equine in Pierson, FL
FL Healing Hoof Steps in Crestview, FL
FL HOPE project in Chipley, FL
GA The Peach Pit in Fort Valley, GA
GA Blue Moon Mending in Coeur d’Alene, ID
IL Reins of Change in Elgin, IL
KS Horses & Heroes Inc. in Shawnee, KS
KS Horses, Humans and Healing (H3 Program) in Mulvane, KS
KY Horses That Heal in Waddy, KY
KY North Star Therapeutic Services, Paris, KY
MI PEACE Ranch in Traverse City, MI
MN Acres For Life Therapy and Wellness Center in Forest Lake, MN
MO Arise Equine Therapy Foundation in Foristell, MO
MT Northwest Counseling Center, LLC in Billings, MT
NC Hope-Thru-Horses, Inc. in Parkton, NC
NC Horse Sense of the Carolinas in Marshall, NC
NC Willow Equine in Mooresville, NC
NJ A Stable Life @ Bergen Equestrian Center in Leonia, NJ
NJ Mission Recovery at Equine Education Foundation in Shamong, NJ
NJ Spring Reins of Life in Three Bridges, NJ
NM Valencia Farms in Corrales, NM
NY Endeavor Therapeutic Horsemanship in Bedford, NY
NY Pal-O-Mine Equestrian in Islandia, NY
NY Trauma & Resiliency Resources, Inc. in New York, NY
OH Finally Home Farm in Xenia, OH
OH PBJ Connection, Inc. in Pataskala, OH
OR Mindful Trails Counseling in Bend, OR
PA EquiTeam Support Services in Dallastown, PA
PA Gateway HorseWorks in Malvern, PA
SC LEAP Lowcountry Equine Assisted Psychotherapy in Wadmalow, SC
SC The Big Red Barn Retreat in Blythewood, SC
TX Refuge Services, Inc. in Lubbock, TX
TX Sunny Creek Ranch in Montgomery, TX
UT Courage Reins in Highland, UT
VA Checkpoint One in Doswell, VA
WA Horses Guiding Human in Graham, WA