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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A long way from the battlefields there is a place where soldiers returning from war can heal with the help of horses.
Timothy Strobel was serving as a medical team leader in Iraq when he was wounded by enemy fire.
“A bullet through my lower left leg kinda changed my life,” he told CBS 2′s Carolyn Gusoff.
Strobel can no longer run or play the sports that he used to love, but with the help of a horse named “Ruby” he is focusing on a special new bond and clearing his mind of the wounds of war.
“I think it’s phenomenal, just being around them is therapeutic,” Strobel said. “They are a very soothing presence.”
The 15-acre Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island opened its doors to returning soldiers who can take advantage of a therapeutic riding program that will help them heal their battle scars. The ranch is not-for-profit and is funded entirely by grants and donations.
“They just explain some special energy that’s hard to explain,” riding director Tony Galatro explained. “It’s kind of a magical event.”
For Strobel and other veterans who have difficulty moving because of battlefield wounds, the horses provide a new kind of freedom.
“Some of us, our mobility is limited, our range of motion and they give you the freedom to get that back,” he said.
But the benefits may go beyond simply moving around.
“Interaction with these animals lowers the veterans blood pressure. We have had instances where veterans have been able to come off of their medication,” explained Suffolk County Director of Veterans’ Services Thomas Ronayne.
The recreational program is free for returning veterans and their families who are given the chance to ride, groom, feed, and bond with the horses.
“War is a horrific experience, a place like this is a special place,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said.
Suffolk County has the largest population of veterans in New York, the ranch has given them an open invitation to spend time with the animals while they heal their wounds.
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