The Horse Doctor: a Balm for Soul Care

Do you find it difficult to focus, get energized, make a decision, or adjust to a slower pace?  Are you unusually tired, distracted, and easily confused? Are you grieving the loss of a close friend? Have you found it difficult to find joy or find God in the beauty of the sunset or in the liturgy of worship? Have you discovered that your reintegration back into the “normalcy” of life has not gone as expected?

This described me following my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I realized that I experienced soul loss. My spiritual journey required a salve for some soul care. I discovered the “horse doctor.”

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For five years the United Methodist Endorsing Agency (UMEA) has conducted a Reintegration Event for chaplains who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and their spouses. This year during the week of 8-11 September, chaplains from the military and a hospital chaplain who was at Ground Zero following  9/11 came together for opportunities of growth, conversation, mutual support, worship, and healing.

The retreat centered on equine assisted learning at a ranch in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. Also, the event provided opportunities for the chaplains and their spouses to share their sacred stories.  It was a time of relaxation, refreshment, healing and growth.

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God’s presence was made real through the beauty of creation, story-telling, the unconditional love of a horse, conversation around the table, and worship with fellow journeyers. The event richly blessed all participants. Some of the comments from the participants were:

  • healing
  • relaxed pace
  • worship was great
  • appreciated the intimate setting and pastoral insights
  • small groups made it easier to share.

The “horse doctor” helped each of us to find our passion and strength that we all have inside. Every one of us experienced soul care in a profound way!

Across our country we have veterans returning from war. How can we journey with those who have experienced “soul loss?” The “horse doctor” is just one way. JustPeace has initiated a new ministry, “Wounded Warrior Soul Care.” We explore resources and ministries that journey together with our veterans and their families to improve their emotional and spiritual well-being. Please consider joining us on this journey!


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