NewsPositively San Diego


Saddles in Service helps San Diego nurses combat stress

Non-profit specializes in equine therapy for PTSD
Posted at 6:26 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 21:26:50-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Soles are being meticulously measured and adjusted, hooves shod, and filed on farrier day at Saddles in Service.

Two local nurses, you could say, have come here for a different kind of "soul adjustment." Sole and soul adjusting, are arguably two important measures of horse and human health.

Honore Holmes works in the burn unit at UCSD, where she says "burnout is real." It has also been very real for Alayna Burgio, who works in the ICU at Sharp Grossmont, and describes some truly dark nights during the COVID surge.

"My unit, the medical ICU was designated COVID unit," she explains. "So at one point they were all COVID patients, most all of them were on ventilators... I believe that night, we literally were fighting for crash carts."

Through friends and family, during the surge, Burgio realized she was dealing with Post Traumatic Stress.

"You're on your feet, you're not eating, you're not drinking. And by the time you do get to sit down, you're just a big ball of tears and just crying," said Burgio.

Holmes and Burgio individually heard about Saddles in Service, a non-profit organization in Alpine which offers a free equine therapy program for veterans and first responders.

Both women say simply being outdoors, doing something for themselves, and working with the horses in the program, has been a healing experience.

They also feel the equine therapy has made them better nurses, a job which is fundamentally about helping others get better, and also happens to be the mission of Saddles in Service. They offer the program to groups of veterans, first responders, and to anyone dealing with post-traumatic stress. It has helped thousands of heroes of all kinds, although Burgio balks at that term.

"I would say the majority of my co-workers, like we often don't even care to hear the word hero because we're doing it because we love this job ... I think it's a blessing to find a career that you're so passionate about. And when you are passionate, and you do love it, it kind of doesn't matter how many hard days you have," said Burgio.

You can find more information at if you would like to donate to the non-profit, or know a group of nurses who would benefit from the program, which is free for first responders and veterans.