SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Spending time with horses to heal and find peace. That's the approach offered to injured veterans by Cornerstone Therapeutics Riding Center in San Diego County.
"When you're with the horses for some reason you just don't think about anything else," said Judy Beckett, who serves as the non-profit's Executive Director.
A primary focus is getting vets to reconnect after severe trauma during their service that can send many inside themselves, often leaving them in no mood for traditional therapeutics.
"They want out of a pharmaceutical environment," said Beckett, "out of clinical environment, out of a talk therapy environment. They're looking for an organic way to heal."
Beckett says she first came to understand horses' healing power from her own experience as a teen going through a rough time. The animals just seemed to understand.
"Whatever energy you're putting out: if you're anxious, if you're angry, if you're frustrated, if you're intense, whatever it may be, they will react and respond in a certain way," said Beckett. "And they're just an extraordinary metaphor for our own lives. And that's how the healing starts."
A video produced by Cornerstone includes an interview with Staff Sgt. Mike Sanchez. "Once I finally got back in the saddle - it fits right in," said Sanchez in the video. He's among 12-hundred service members who have gone through Cornerstone.
After losing both legs to an I.E.D. in Iraq, he says getting on a horse made him feel whole again as he sensed others looking at him with new respect.
"That look. You can feel them looking at you. They're looking at you like you're just a regular person. And that's all we are, we're just regular people. We're just missing a couple of limbs or something," said Sgt. Sanchez with a smile.
A new sense of self and unique ability to bond, Beckett says the changes that come about from spending time with the horses can be profound.
"To see a guy that's 6-five, that's built like a brick house, hugging a horse; burying his head in their neck, crying and kissing them. It's just like it all comes out. And it's a great catharsis."
Because of her remarkable work with Cornerstone, ABC 10News and LEAD San Diego chose Judy Beckett as our 10News Leadership Award winner for the month of June.
Cornerstone is certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. To learn more about Cornerstone, visit their website, https://www.cornerstonetrc.org.