Vets get free horseback riding lessons through VA grant - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Vets get free horseback riding lessons through VA grant

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LEESVILLE, La. (KALB News Channel 5) -- A new program in Leesville being offered to veterans provides free therapy...on four legs.

Harmony Equestrian Services, LLC received a grant from the VA to help rehabilitate female veterans through horseback riding lessons.

News Channel 5's Brooke Buford (Twitter: @brookebuford) spoke with one vet who says the program has changed her life.

Ask anyone who has ever loved a horse, and they'll tell you there's something magical about the creature.

"I've been around horses my whole life," said Amanda Lluvera, owner of Harmony Equestrian Services. "My mother had a passion and she passed it on to me."

Lluvera wanted to pass that passion on to others. So, four months ago, she opened a barn in Leesville offering lessons, training, boarding and leasing. But, last month she added a new specialty to the mix - free therapy.

"It was a really good reaction," she said. "Within the first week, we had 12 women who were interested."

Lluvera, an Iraq and Afghanistan vet, received became a vendor for a VA grant called "Healthy Women are Active."

"What that provides are riding lessons, yoga, Crossfit...different outdoor activities for women veterans in order to become a little more active and to help them with any mental or physical issues they're dealing with," she said.

Theresa Johnson, who suffers from depression and back problems, was one of the first to sign up.

"I wasn't getting the help I needed from the hospital with the Army, so I started going to the VA in Pineville and they started helping me," said Johnson. "They told me about the program out there. I started doing the horse riding."

It was Johnson's first time riding. She was assigned to a horse named "Dazzle." 

"I kind of didn't know how to take it," she said. "But, it was really fun! I got to meet a lot of other women veterans out there and talk about our different experiences and what we were going through and connect that way."

Johnson helps care for the horses and practices rehabilitative exercises on them while riding.

"It helped me with my back issues, posture, working out and getting exercise like I needed to, instead of going to physical therapy," said Johnson. "It's a stress reliever. I'm calm and not that depressed. I was happier."

Johnson says she's fallen in love with the animal...something Lluvera says she believed would happen all along.

"They're actually doing something," said Lluvera. "They're not sitting in front of a therapist talking about how they're feeling. They're active. They're around a horse, which helps in so many ways."

For more information about Harmony Equestrian Services, LLC, log on to www.harmonyequestrianservices.com or call 318-308-9066.

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