Scottsdale horse therapy program for first responders with PTSD in need of funding

A Scottsdale horse therapy program meant to help first responders struggling with PTSD is in need of funding to continue.

For years, dozens of first responders in the Valley have relied on them when the weight of the job catches up.

"You can't do your job without the job affecting you," said Hunkapi Programs Executive Director Terra Schaad. "You are a being, you have a nervous system, and it's going to affect you."

Hunkapi is a 10-acre farm that uses equine therapy for many people in all walks of life. That includes those with addictions, ADD, autism, and those with PTSD.

"It's about teaching first responders how they're responding to stress and giving them healthy coping skills to handle the stress in real time versus suppressing it or overriding it, and having symptoms of PTSD later in life," Schaad said.

But this first responder program needs donations to pick up. Schaad says she's seen firsthand how it can help.

"There's a recognition that this isn't their fault, there is an awareness they aren't alone," she said. "The aggravation, not liking people, overly stressed, not being able to sleep at night – those are symptoms that bring people here, so there's relatability that other people feel this way too."

They've had 13 of what they call cohorts. Schaad says there are plenty of programs to help active first responders, but what she would like to see is more programs like this, which can stay with a first responder even after they've left the profession. 

"What I see is a lack of services also for retired firefighters, which is where we often see the onset of symptoms," said Schaad. "Once the job has gone away, you aren't in that…busy phase of your life, there's the time to settle and sit still - there's still a flooding of emotion and onset of PTSD."

That's why she hopes things will change and they and keep offering these sessions for those that may not even realize that they need it yet.

UPDATE: Hunkapi says they offer a variety of programs, but have been forced to stop offering one program for first responders due to a lack of funding. The farm's other programs continue.

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