Helping NY veterans heal through horse therapy


HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — A nonprofit is helping those who served the nation heal, one horse experience at a time.

National Equine Institute of Growth Through Healing, commonly called “N.E.I.G.H.,” offers several free therapy programs for veterans.

N.E.I.G.H. founder Dawn Samuelson said horses have a unique way of sensing and mimicking human behaviors and emotions, and that allows them to connect with and help heal those who are struggling.

“The horse is a therapist for them and I pretty much am the translator,” said Samuelson. “We teach the client to be able to look at their own emotional coat and the horse becomes a mirror of that emotional coat. We start to identify some of the things going on with ourselves and give them tools and strategies to work through that,” she said.

Army veteran Brian DiFonzo said the program has helped him immensely.

“I was in a dark place for a long time and the N.E.I.G.H. program, it was just like something got lifted off of your chest,” said DiFonzo. “I never faced that emotional coat that I had from my traumas and working with these beautiful creatures, they aren’t judgmental.”

DiFonzo and the horses have developed an amazing bond. Now he wants to get the word out to fellow veterans to help them, too.

“I would love for every vet to go through it because it’s life changing,” he said.

N.E.I.G.H. offers its programs in Hamburg at Zittel Farm, Beamus Point, and in Bradford, Pennsylvania. The nonprofit is also mobile.

“To be able to connect with the horses has been something that you just can’t reach inside four walls with a desk,” said VA Recreation Therapy Supervisor Pamela Kaznowski. “It’s just an amazing program.”

If you are a veteran looking to get involved, learn more or are interested in donating, click here.

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