The 2023 Washington International Horse Show Honor and Service Award, sponsored by the EQUUS Foundation, was presented to Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding (CTR), Street, Maryland, in recognition of its Horses and Heroes Veterans’ Program The presentation took place on Military Night, Friday, October 27, 2023, during a ceremony in the show arena.
Since its founding in 2003, CTR’s mission has always been to deliver healing and learning to people, ranging in age from 4 years old to 85 years old who live with a wide array of disabilities and diagnoses, through the unique connection with horses.
In 2018, CTR established a working partnership with the Veteran’s Administration in coordination with the VA Maryland Healthcare System at Perry Point, Maryland, CTR to provide adaptive sports activities and equine assisted learning to veterans through its Horses and Heroes Veterans’ Program at no cost to the veterans themselves. These veterans live with diagnoses that include Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression, Personality Disorder, PTSD, Alcohol Use Disorder and Substance Use Disorder. CTR currently provides weekly sessions to three Veteran Administration programs: Recreational Therapy, Medical Foster Home, and the Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Recovery Center.
In the five years since its establishment, over 450 veterans have participated in the program, and some, after completing the program, continue on as CTR volunteers. “It is intimidating for anyone who may be unfamiliar with horses to approach a powerful animal and learn how to work with them towards a common goal and a shared purpose,” said Cathy Schmidt, CTR’s Founder, Executive Director and PATH Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. Many participants arrive with a fear horses. They learn to trust that these gentle giants want to help them and not hurt them, and in learning to trust the herd of horses, they gradually learn to trust themselves. Some of the horses had experienced abuse and trauma before arriving at CTR and had to learn to trust humans again – making the connection even more meaningful to the veterans.
The VA staff, who also attend the sessions, have shared that the veterans leave feeling energized, de-stressed, more connected to the other vets, staff, and volunteers, more confident and grounded and with a better awareness of self. VA Staffers have also shared that the rate of relapse into active alcoholism and active drug addiction sky-rocketed during the pandemic for their veterans and that many of their veterans still struggle daily to stay sober or kick their returned drug and alcohol habits. Without missing a beat, they then said they have hope for the veterans participating at CTR, “because they are not only doing something to help themselves, but also benefitting from their interaction with the horses. They aren’t getting high, and they aren’t dying from overdoses.”
“We applaud the achievements of Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, an EQUUS Foundation Guardian charity that has demonstrated its commitment to transparency by its willingness to make its business and equine welfare practices available for public scrutiny. We are honored to award a $1,500 grant to CTR in support of its horses,” said Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President. Learn more about CTR here.
In addition to its status as an EQUUS Foundation Guardian, CTR is a Premier Accredited Center with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) and Harford County’s first Horse Discovery Center through the Maryland Horse Industry Board.
The WIHS Honor and Service Award was established in 2013 following the induction of Klinger into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame in 2013. Klinger, a member of the Caisson platoon of the 3d United States Infantry (The Old Guard), was the inspiration for the award and its first recipient. The Honor and Service Award recognizes a horse, individual, or organization that best demonstrates the values of honor and service as embodied by Klinger.
Learn more about the WIHS Honor and Service Award here.
ABOUT EQUUS FOUNDATION: The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, is the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America’s horses from peril and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail: email@example.com, Website: equusfoundation.org.
ABOUT WASHINGTON INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW (WIHS): Established in 1958, the Washington International Horse Show is one of North America’s most prestigious, competitive and entertaining equestrian events with competition for international, professional, amateur, junior and child riders. Highlights include the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington for the President’s Cup and the WIHS Equitation Finals, plus community and charity events. WIHS, an official USEF Heritage Competition, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization. For more information, wihs.org.
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Contact: Lynn Coakley