Delaware County program uses horses to help children, first responders and veterans

(WBNS)
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DELAWARE COUNTY, Ohio — Stockhands Horses for Healing aims to help children with any disabilities or developmental challenges and first responders and veterans who may be going through emotional or physical issues.

Stockhands started in 2014 and is a non-profit organization. Their goal is to help create a non-judgmental atmosphere where people can be around others who may be going through similar situations.

The children's lessons are slightly different than the adults — they focus on core strength, balance and coordination. Adults, first responders and veterans can learn how to groom or tack up a horse properly.

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Co-founder Lisa Benton said these skills can help people both physically and mentally. She said the relationship between a horse and a person taking time to care for them or be around them is rewarding.

She said it gives children or adults a place where they can come and be around people who may fully understand and experience the same situations.

Matthew Mankins has been coming to Stockhands for 15 months. He said he made the decision to go after being diagnosed with PTSD.

He is a veteran and was a first responder for Hanover Fire in Licking County. He said when he first got diagnosed, he didn't know exactly what PTSD was.

"It was a lot of emotional things happening due to responses due to stimuli around me. To storms, to thunder, to lightning, to fireworks, to certain smells," Mankins said.

He said coming here and meeting people who have become family and helped him gain the confidence to get through his challenges.

"A lot of veterans and first responders, we hide who we are and hide those systems we try to be tough and when you're around people like you who understand you can talk to that aren't judging you can just be yourself," Mankins said.

Stockhands offers a special first responder and veterans night every second and fourth Friday of the month. The programs are free for first responders and veterans, so Stockhands relies heavily on donations and sponsorships to take care of their facility and horses.

The horses are donated but it may not be a permanent home for them. Benton said the horses need to be able to be active and if they aren't, the facility says it makes sure to always find them a good home.

Benton said they are in the beginning stages of launching a capitol campaign to expand their facility and provide more services. The services will include making their facility fully handicap-accessible and adding a mounting lift.

Stockhands Horses for Healing wants to make sure they are providing for anyone, whether it's physically or mentally.