ALPINE (NEWS 8) – An East County ranch is offering hope and healing to active duty military members, veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the ten-acre property, based at Storm Son’s Ranch Equine Therapy and Horse Rescue off Japutal Highlands Road in Alpine, there is a bonding pen where participants can bond with a horse.
“We've been saying it's the heroes, horses and healing,” said co-founder and CEO Tammy Oluvic.
The program was started by retired U.S. Navy veteran Mike Oluvic and his wife Tammy after she saw the impact horses had on her husband who was suffering from PTSD.
Many of the horses such as Tequila were abandoned or abused. “You could literally see the demons in his eyes and he was here for an hour and everything about him softened, he was at peace,” said Tammy.
The program now has 13 horses and started with one hero and now more than 200 veterans, family members, law enforcement, fire fighters and children with special needs are healing from the equine therapy.
“You get more self-aware because if you're angry the horse doesn't want to be by you. He's going to sense that it makes you become more self-aware about yourself and emotional state you're in,” said Mike Oluvic, co-founder and ranch foreman.
While the program comes at no cost for participants, the need is growing to maintain, feed and care for the horses and the ranch.
This weekend, San Diego based non-profit Silver Dove Films will be filming a documentary on the ranch about reducing suicide among veterans through alternative therapy such as equine therapy.
“You can tell the horse your deepest secrets and he won’t tell another soul,” said U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and volunteer Dave Vikander.
Darlen Gunter who is the director of outreach and a U.S. Navy veteran says this has changed her life. “I am a crusty, bitter, a recluse. Are you kidding? I am exploding at night. I can't wait for Tammy to tell us the next thing we are doing.”
Volunteers say each day they get to witness miracles.
“You have to sit down and say, ‘oh my, a miracle,’ you never get used to miracles you never get used to miracles, it's such a wonderful thing to be a part of,” said Vikander.
The Oluvics say the program is growing and there is always a need to rescue more horses but there are high costs to maintain and care for the horses and ranch.
To learn more on how you can help visit the Saddles in Service website.