MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Marines and Sailors aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego volunteered with the Pegasus Rising Project Sept. 28 at Valenti Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
The Pegasus Rising Project helps service members who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or are having difficulty re-integrating back into their civilian lives through therapeutic interactions with a family of Polish Arabian Horses.
With an upcoming fundraiser, Valenti Ranch needed help with preparations. Marines and sailors helped with move hay bales and dirt, clean stables, paint, and weed.
Volunteers started their day with a quick breakfast at a local restaurant before arriving at Valenti Ranch. They were then split into groups where they were assigned tasks to complete around the stables.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to give back to the community that does so much for us,” said Lt. Stephen Brown, chaplain, 2nd RT Bn., Recruit Training Regiment.
After a long morning of working on the ranch, Gary Adler, president and CEO of the Pegasus Rising Project, ordered pizza for the volunteers to show his appreciation.
Afterwards, service members had the opportunity to interact with horses and see what animal-assisted therapy is all about.
“I completely understand why they do interaction with veterans and military,” said Sgt. Robert Nishnic, drill instructor, Company G, 2nd RT Bn, RTR, after spending time with the horses.
Volunteers were allowed to groom and feed the horses, as well as bridle them if they wanted to lead them around their pens.
“This is a great cause, I would recommend this to anyone with free time to come out here,” said Nishnic. “I try and volunteer with anything that has to do with Wounded Warrior.”
After interacting with horses and getting familiar with the program, volunteers understood the benefits of animal-assisted therapy and the importance of the organization’s mission.
“Sometimes it’s easier for people to connect with animals instead of a person, there is a valuable place for this,” said Brown. “Horses don’t care what you have been through.”
The family of horses was brought to America in 1980, and recently found a new home and purpose at Valenti Ranch. The Pegasus Rising Project works with groups, families, couples and individuals for a specialized experience. The Pegasus Rising Project works with Veterans Village of San Diego, Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support, and Wounded Warrior Project, by providing animal-assisted therapy.
“I like what they stand for, helping people with PTSD and doing therapy with horses. I didn’t know they did this,” said Lance Cpl. Heather Twigg, administration clerk, 3rd RT Bn, RTR. “They’re helping the horses too. Some are sick and injured.”
Volunteers felt the day was worthwhile, and were glad to be able to help an organization that dedicates their services to assist service members.
“Horses are wonderful tools to help people find themselves again. Being out here is relaxing when you connect with animals,” said Adler. “It’s part of making this a place where military (personnel) can feel at home.”