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War veterans get help from Rick Iannucci's 'therapeutic riding' program

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"We call it 'post-traumatic spiritual disorder,' because we think the thing that happens to people in war is a wounding of the spirit," Iannucci says. "Our goal is to find that [wound] and start working on it."

Iannucci and his instructors integrate physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. "That's having faith again – faith in themselves, faith in others, and faith in God – or the Great Mystery, as our native [American] brothers and sisters call it," Iannucci says.

Leaning against the fence of the arena, Iannucci watches Nancy De Santis, his fiancée and an instructor, teach Iraq veteran Kristy LaFrance how to "lighten up" on the reins.

It's been a tough day for Ms. LaFrance. She arrived, her children in tow, walking with a cane and feeling irritable – believed to be an effect of PTSD. She also has a brain injury and leg wounds.

It took all the strength she could muster, emotionally and physically, to hoist herself into the saddle. Nonetheless, she later left the arena smiling. "She was in a wheelchair for three years," Iannucci says. "She's got determination and drive and will. It's not the disability, it's the ability that [the vets] possess that we look at."

Sterling Bucholz, a combat veteran who was shot in the head by a sniper in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, leaving him temporarily paralyzed on his left side, says working the reins has helped increase the range of motion in his left hand.

More than anything, though, the program has given him hope, says Mr. Bucholz, who also suffers from PTSD.

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