‘Horses Can Heal’ Therapy Is Topic for JWV Meeting

Learn from Vanessa Kohnen, founder of Rancho Milagro, how horses are used for therapy to treat PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Nancy Stutman

Rancho Milagro founder and Executive Director Vanessa Kohnen will speak about equine therapy at Jewish War Veterans Copper State Post 619 breakfast on Sunday, Sept. 10. The meeting takes place in the Poolside building at Oakwood Country Club, at 24218 S. Oakwood Blvd. in Sun Lakes. A Meet & Greet with free lox and bagels, coffee, and doughnuts starts at 9:30 a.m. and is followed by the speaker at 10 a.m. All are welcome.

Rancho Milagro, a non-profit organization, was founded by Vanessa and her husband Robert in 2014 for people who have experienced trauma. Equine therapy is used to help treat people in need, including veterans with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

“Rancho Milagro started from my own personal childhood trauma,” confessed Vanessa. “As a child of abuse, I found my only refuge was with my animals. By giving me a purpose, horses saved my life, for which I am thankful and am now ready to help others start a journey to their own personal recovery,” she concluded.

The animals at Rancho Milagro can understand and relay the emotions for individual patients. “Can you imagine a 1,000-pound animal mimicking what you’re experiencing?” asks Kohnen. “We always say we want somebody else to understand what we’re going through. Well, guess what: The horses do, and we are able to watch these beautiful animals mirror the same emotions,” Kohnen said, adding, “This is why equine therapy works so well.”

Research shows that Equine Assisted Therapy is effective for treating survivors experiencing depression, anxiety, and/or trauma-related symptoms, as well as ADHD, autism, dissociative disorders, and other mental health diagnoses. In one representative study, survivors showed increased confidence, self-esteem, assertiveness, emotional regulation, and resourcefulness because of this form of therapy. In some cases, just a few sessions of equine therapy can produce improvement.

Supporters of Rancho Milagro’s program include ASU Pat Tillman Veterans Center, 14th Hour Foundation, Travis Manion Foundation, and Southwest Veterans Chamber of Commerce.

JWV Post 619, which meets monthly from September through May, boasts members who represent a wide range of religious affiliations and participates in philanthropic activities to help veterans of all faiths. To learn more about JWV activities and membership, contact Elliott Reiss at [email protected] or 480-802-3281.