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Equestrian Therapy program aiming to help healthcare workers deal with post pandemic stress

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Medical workers across the country are beginning to ease into their regular pre-pandemic routines.

But, just like an accident where you often feel the pain after, these health workers are now dealing with the mental toll left by COVID-19.

Now, a statewide pilot program launching in Amarillo hopes to help those who help us.

The Regional Council Advisory or RAC has partnered with 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center to create an equine therapy program for area medical workers who are part of the RAC to help meet their mental health needs.

In the past year, healthcare workers have been inundated with patients.

Here in the Panhandle we had to bring in traveling nurses, and saw an ambulance shortage at its peak.

But, traveling nurses have left and hospital rooms are no longer overflowing.

The challenge now, is to get healthcare workers to get the help they deserve.

“We notoriously as first responders and health care workers are resistant to seeking help. The old cliche is the help doesn’t need help, but we have certainly identified through COVID that, that is not true,” said Ryan Smith, chair for Pre-Hospital Committee of the Panhandle Regional Advisory Council.

Smith has been an ems for more than 20 years and says they often do not have time to process the first call before being sent to another.

He adds a lot of it they just can’t un-see and is not easy to share. So, they just keep it all in

“I have personally seen some of the biggest tragedies that have come from just stuffing things down and we bring it out here and get it all out,” said Lou Anne Humphrey, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate at 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center and former paramedic

During COVID-19 healthcare workers were often the last person these people saw.

As a result, many feeling powerless left the industry, highlighting the need for mental health services.

But, with the stigma in the industry, they knew it could not be traditional therapy.

“Just coming out here and petting a horse slows your heart rate down, slows your respiratory rate down. You don’t have to just sit and stare at somebody talk, you are doing activities,” said Humphrey.

Although they do have therapeutic riding, that is mostly for people with physical disabilities to gain strength.

Most of the work they do during the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is done on the ground.

This program focuses more on the emotional connection and learning to cope with traumas or emotions like anxiety and grief.

This program is called HORSE and is fairly new, but 7 Star has seen their clients double since October and attribute it to post pandemic stress.

Now, they just hope to see the program help pandemic heroes, the way they are seeing it help their other clients.

7 Star also provides therapy programs for veterans and has seen many children enter their program in the past few months.

As their program grows, they are also in dire need of volunteers to help with the therapeutic riding program and funds to continue their efforts.

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