SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – A Miami Valley veteran is using his love for horses to help veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress heal.

After serving in Iraq, combat veteran and retired first responder Tim Spradlin found comfort in his horses. “I realized the issues I was dealing with, the horses I had out back as a hobby were helping me find some peace,” Spradlin said.

That comfort he found inspired him to use horses to help other struggling veterans and first responders. Spradlin founded Finally Home Farm Equine Assisted Therapy seven years ago.

“It’s just amazing to see how the client, the veteran, will open up out here in an open environment with this horse,” Spradlin said.

Finally Home Farm offers three programs: individual sessions, which include a mental health professional, equine assisted learning for individuals or groups, and Odyssey group sessions. The programs are certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).

Equine therapy provides a different environment than a typical therapist visit where veterans can ride and interact with the horses.

“Sometimes we get somebody on a horse, and something about it isn’t working and it’s a moment to have a really honest conversation with them, and say ‘Hey, it’s probably not the horse, what’s going on with you right now?’ And sometimes that means they get off the horse and we have an honest conversation about what they’re going through,” Odyssey program coordinator Carol Byant said.

Spradlin said group sessions are more than just riding horses, it’s about bringing together a community of veterans and first responders who all share similar experiences.

“Horses are hardwired for connection, they’re herd animals, they don’t want to be alone, and humans are the same, but when a warrior has suffered trauma, we often think ‘wow I’m the only person that is this messed up,’ so we isolate,” Spradlin said.

Veterans who come to the weekly sessions said they’ve noticed how the horses have opened their hearts to healing.

“The horses will take your energy, and your bad energy, and work with you and they’ll take your problems from you if you give them to ’em, and then they’ll just let them go,” veteran Leo Perrin said.

Finally Home Farm is a non-profit that runs on donations. All sessions are completely free and are open to veterans, first responders and their families.

For more information about Finally Home Farm, click here.