Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC), a non-profit organization providing therapeutic horseback riding and other equine-facilitated group services to children and adults with physical, social and mental health needs, will resume, with limited capacity and new, safe COVID-10 precautions, the Operation Strides program for military families on June 25th from 5:30 - 7:30 pm.
Prior to COVID-19, NTRC committed to expand Operation Strides, a tailored equine-facilitated program for veterans, military service men and women and their families. The program includes veteran-only sessions as well as family sessions that conclude with time for food, refreshments and camaraderie among fellow veterans and military families.
Operation Strides is a special program devoted solely to the unique needs of veterans and military families by promoting reintegration and skills development. The horsemanship workshops aim to empower veterans and encourage them to fully leverage the talents developed during their service as they transition back to civilian life and the workforce.
“We are so excited to slowly resume programming beginning with our Operation Strides program,” said Missy Lamont, NTRC Executive Director. “We expect to be fully operational by September and will continue to phase in our programming throughout the summer.”
Volunteers and staff have been trained on new COIVD-19 protocols that include taking temperatures of all visitors and participants, hand washing, physical distancing, wearing masks and smaller group sizes.
During the Operation Strides sessions, participants work directly with horses while engaging in a group process to overcome obstacles. Operation Strides’ ground-based exercises are interactive and challenging. Veterans and their family members work with NTRC’s certified equine specialists and therapy horses to improve mood, communication and wellbeing by being guided through a series of specially designed activities. The exercises provide opportunities to strengthen the bond among unified families, improve self-confidence, develop skills and provide an opportunity to build a social network among fellow veterans.
“Operation Strides has been very helpful because it helps you work through challenges and gives you down time,” said Army Veteran Rick Sjolander and Operation Strides program participant. “It takes your mind off the stress of a day to do something with an animal. The horse absorbs your stress and relaxes you. I always feel better when I leave.”
The program is free of charge and funding is provided through donations and grants.