Horse Drill Team Helps Veterans Heal

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HARVARD (WIFR) -- Horse shoes are clackin' at the Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding Center in Harvard and veterans like Tim Stratton are using their spare time to heal.

"They know if we're having a good day or a bad day and they make it more enjoyable," said Stratton. "That's the beautiful thing of what the horse does for these guys and it does for me. They're real therapy."

Bravehearts is an organization which uses horses as a type of therapy for children with autism and our service men and women.

Stratton and about a eight other vets have moved up the ranks to the Bravehearts drill team, which performs choreographed routines for events and competitions around the country.

Director of Operations Paddy McKevitt supervises the team and he says it does wonders.

"I've seen huge changes in people," said McKevitt. "Their own sense of confidence and sense of purpose with their life seems to come back to them and we see it all the time."

Just like an army drill team, this one on horseback goes through a variety of formations while trying to remain in sync.

Stratton, a Vietnam vet, helped organize the group a few years ago and says it saves lives.

"Every one of us at one time had too much idle time and that was bad for us, that was our enemy," Stratton said. "Every vet needs to be here. Anybody that gets a chance to see us, they need to make contact with Bravehearts because it's the best thing there is in the world. It really is."

Bravehearts assists more veterans than any other therapeutic horse program in the country. Last year, 345 vets visited the Harvard stables for more than 2,600 session hours. Bravehearts' staff says that this year they are on pace to surpass those numbers.

If you would like to visit Bravehearts, you can go to its website at or give them a call at 815-943-8226.

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