February 24, 2018
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WHOA Project helping County Veterans in Van Buren, Open House Sept 11

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Taking part in the WHOA project (Warriors Horses Of America), Caribou Maine Veterans’ home residents visited horses and ponies in Van Buren for the third time this summer. They spent visits handling, brushing, and buggy riding ponies; having learned of the opportunity because a Veterans’ Benefits workshop took place in their cafeteria this past May, One presenter at that workshop was Nancy Dumond Violette, along with husband Don Violette USAF ret, owners of a small horse farm in Van Buren. Violette’s wanted to let everyone know that veterans are welcome to visit, play horse, learn to ride, and/or practice some Equine Assisted Learning (EAL).

Beginning her presentation stating “we are loosing more vets to suicide today than war,” (the average is 22 per day).
She explained how horses can help vets and that Perfect Ponies Learning Center (PPLC) in Van Buren is now open to vets at no charge, to find out for themselves. Violette has 24 years of providing equine services for special needs children, adults and families, long background in special education, life skills coaching and EAL, and passed out invitational brochures, asking the workshop audience to share, visit and participate.

For veterans, horses offer more than just a mount. They have a lot in common, like living on hyper-alert and knowing what it’s like to fear for one’s life. Horses live in the moment and while engaged with humans, can help people find out how their behaviors and emotions are affecting those around them. Some of the programs already in place across the USA, touted as saving lives and families, vets are simply helping with barn chores and brushing horses once a month. Others may include riding, weekend retreats or weekly EAL sessions. In many programs vets are helping vets use horses for physical therapy, spotting and side walking for those mounted.

After a go ahead visit from the Caribou Vet Center staff, Violette just needed to get the word out to Veterans, come pet a horse, plan family outings, engage in EAL, learn horse care and riding, take part in creating future programs. The farm is not a business but Violette’s passion for horses, learning, and growth. Horses and ponies that used to be 4-H projects now are at work helping people.

“Calming” is the most used response by veterans visiting the farm. Having something to look forward to; building relationships and communication; relating to the horse’s natural life saving intuitive awareness/radar; bringing home the calm when a situation arises away from the farm are also part of the inspiring feedback, also: experiencing less or no pain while on or around horses, and after. EAL exercises are designed to help problem solve behavioral and emotional challenges often dealt with outside the arena, including PTSD. Violettes are straight forward that no one is being psychoanalyzed, and no one is expected to tell their life story, any optional sharing is always confidential.

The next WHOA Project (Warriors Horses Of America) ‘Veterans’ Open House’ is Wednesday, September 11, 4-7PM, part of the second Wednesdays open houses which started August 7. Hours will be earlier during late fall and winter months. To visit at other times, Violettes encourage a call ahead. The farm is located at 489 Main St, Van Buren, phone 868 5324. email ponygirl489@msn.com Messages will be returned. PPLC is affiliated with Manes and Tails Aroostook (spreading equine therapy county wide) non profit. Both may be found on Facebook.