NIMISHILLEN TWP. — Over the past several months, Navy veteran Stephen Maple has developed a friendship that helps him cope with a brain injury.
Flash, who sports a brownish-red coat with a white streak in the center of his face, is among six quarter horses that staff the Military Family Center, an equine therapy farm for veterans. The facility, about 1½ miles northeast of downtown Louisville in the 5400 block of Meese Road Northeast, is operated by Pegasus Farm.
Pegasus Farm, a nonprofit based in Hartville, provides a variety of therapeutic equestrian programs, vocational services and recreational and social activities.
“It is like a bonding experience for me,” said Maple, who lives in the Canal Fulton area and spent 5½ years in the Navy. “Flash is my horse.”
The Military Family Center opened to the public about a year ago. Pegasus Farm, which has its home equine therapy farm in Marlboro Township, partnered with area Rotary International clubs to develop the veterans equestrian therapy operation.
“It has been a three-year project,” said Carol Lichtenwalter, executive director of Pegasus Farm. “They came up with the idea that they wanted to provide therapy for veterans. The individual [Rotary] clubs are donating to the support of the center.”
On the property are a stately two-story house and a barn for the horses. During 2018, the Military Family Center provided 630 hours of equine therapy.
“We have the ability to serve more veterans here,” Lichtenwalter said. “And we want to use this property to its fullest. It really is an alternative to other veteran services. We work with veterans that are in recovery. This environment, there is a serenity here that you don’t get everywhere.”
Officials with Pegasus Farm say they are in contact with area veterans organizations.
But they discovered many military veterans are not connected with those organizations. Because people who served in the military stand a good chance of enduring traumatic episodes or living with injuries, there can be a need for therapy. Veterans who come to the Military Family Center are not charged for the therapy.
“There is a lot of research about being with a horse or any animal,” said Missy Howard, riding instructor and site coordinator. “It has a calming effect on people.”
Walsh University professionals provide counseling and occupational and physical therapy at the site.
Pegasus Farm officials also are inviting first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, to visit the facility for equine therapy.
“They have the same kind of trauma in their work,” Lichtenwalter said.
Reach Malcolm Hall at 330-580-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: mhallREP