This is the story of Sgt. Michael Carrasquillo, 28, of Newfoundland, who was wounded in combat in Afghanistan. We learn how he his road to recovery has been aided by being around horses, at GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center in Mlford.This is the story of Sgt. Carrasquillo, 28, of Newfoundland, who was wounded in combat in Afghanistan. We learn how he his road to recovery has been aided by being around horses, at GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center in Mlford.
Purple Heart recipient finds path of healing
GAIT offers wounded veterans equine therapy services through new program
MILFORD- This is the story of Sgt. Michael Carrasquillo, 28, of Newfoundland, who was wounded in combat in Afghanistan. We learn how he his road to recovery has been aided by being around horses, at GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center in Mlford.
What sort of program is this?
When Michael Carrasquillo was a boy in New York City, the only horses he ever saw were pulling a carriage in Central Park.
Now U.S. Army Sgt. Carrasquillo finds himself riding a horse regularly through GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center’s newest program, “Equine Services for Heroes”. The program, offered in accordance with Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International’s standards and guidelines, provides therapeutic riding services to injured servicemen and servicewomen who are members of the region’s Wounded Warrior Project.
“We are so pleased to give back to those who have served our country, and confident that these beautiful animals can offer both physical and emotional benefits to those who often need it the most,” said Martha Dubensky, executive director of GAIT, where equine therapy is offered to improve the quality of life of children and adults with special needs and injuries.
What happened to you?
Sgt. Carrasquillo, 28, of Newfoundland, Pa., was shot in 2005 five times during a tour of duty in Afghanistan and was awarded a Purple Heart for dragging a fellow soldier to safety. His injuries, which included broken ribs and a collapsed lung, the loss of the middle finger on his right hand and permanent nerve damage in his arm and shoulder, have led to the loss of grip strength, dexterity in his fingers, breathing issues, and sometimes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is considered 100 percent disabled.
“After I was injured, I became withdrawn, introverted; I never wanted to leave my house,” said Carrasquillo. “But this has been very motivating for me. It’s about building the relationship with the horse, and it forces me out of my comfort zone in a very empowering way.”
The Wounded Warrior Project has given a $200,000 grant to PATH International for the purpose of awarding scholarships for equine-assisted activities and therapies to Wounded Warrior Project alumni who have expressed an interest in therapeutic horsemanship. Carrasquillo was one of those selected to participate at GAIT earlier this summer.
How could a horse help?
“Grooming a horse is relaxing and peaceful, ‘tacking up’ a horse is regimented and sequential, and riding or leading a horse is exhilarating and exciting,” said Dubensky.
“But what’s important to know is that all encounters with horses are bonding experiences
without judgment, freeing our participants from the emotional strain found in other types of relationships.”
Carrasquillo said: “Honestly, I was intimidated at first, but I feel so comfortable now; it’s freeing in a way. If you’re riding a motorcycle, you’re focused on where you’re going, but on a horse, I’m more connected with the animal than where we’re going. You just try to be on the same page with the animal. It’s a very cool experience and unlike anything I’ve done before.”
Where can I learn more?
For more information about GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center, visit online at http://gaitpa.org or call (570)409-1140. They are located at 314 Foster Hill Road, Milford. Martha Dubensky is the Executive Director and founder of GAIT.