The heartwarming way some veterans are coping with what they saw at war is surprising: horses.

'It gives you a break from always living in the past.'

Going to war changes people.

It's undeniable. We welcome back veterans with gratitude for their service, but what happens when the fanfare dies down and they try to shift back into a "normal" daily life?

For many, the transition is incredibly difficult and made even worse by post-traumatic stress disorder.


This table, which documents the types of stressors experienced in 2003 across various combat zones and military branches, is a staggering reminder of just how much terrible stuff our veterans have witnessed.

Chart info via Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD.

Luckily there are ways to make life better for some of our returning veterans, like spending time with magnificent creatures.

A program in New Jersey could serve as a model for helping veterans and other traumatized people (like at-risk youth and bereaved children) to cope with the world around them again. It's called Spring Reins of Life, and it pairs up people with horses during therapy sessions that calm veterans' nerves and teaches them to connect and communicate again.

Michael Otto Steiger is a U.S. Marine who had been deployed to Iraq in 2005.

Michael Otto Steiger chokes up talking about how Spring Reins of Life helps him:

"I know we all have our different coping mechanisms for dealing with our symptoms of PTSD, and being out here I don't feel like a person with PTSD. I just feel … I guess average or normal."

See more about how the program works:

The program is accredited by the Equine Growth and Learning Association; known as EAGALA, it's a nonprofit that deals with horse-assisted psychotherapy. According to the organization, 90% of donations is spent directly on programming thanks to support from volunteers.

Go beyond just thanking a veteran — help heal them.

Regardless of how differently everyone feels about the necessity of war, it's easy to agree that veterans deserve services like this when they return. Peace of mind and a chance at a happy life is the least we can do.

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