San Fernando Valley nonprofit offers equine therapy to veterans

SHADOW HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- If you ask one of the military veterans at Shadow Hills Riding Club what they think of the program's coordinator, you're sure to hear them express gratitude.

"He's a saint for doing it for us," said U.S. Air Force veteran Jimie Darling.

John Higginson runs several therapeutic riding programs, and in 2012 he founded Saddles for Soldiers.

"I saw so many of our veterans were ending up homeless, so I thought this was a way to give back and provide a service that would enrich their lives," said Higginson.

Over the past five years, hundreds of men and women have participated in the program.

Darling said she's experienced a complete turnaround: stepping out in daylight once triggered panic attacks. "Ever since Saddles for Soldiers, I've been able to get out of my house," she said. "And I learned a great, great activity."

"I've seen changes that take a couple of months," said Louisa Mendelsohn of the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs office. Higginson believes part of the program's success is in the value of learning to care for the horses. "I really believe in taking care of something else they learn to take care of themselves," he said.

The Shadow Hills Riding Club will a fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 30. For more information, visit the club's website,
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