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Alborn: Recovery a Family Affair at Rainbow Riding Center


A couple of weeks ago, Katherine Gotthardt, the Outreach Manager for the Rainbow Center 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program, Inc., invited me to their facility for an update on what they are doing for Veterans. 

I had last visited the program a couple of years ago.  I documented my visit in a blog post, The Rainbow Riding Center During that earlier visit, Ms. Debi Alexander, The Executive Director of the Program, gave me an impressive overview.  Rainbow Riding serves those with physical, intellectual/cognitive, and emotional and behavioral challenges.  

Its principle tool is horses.  I’m not a horse person, I’m a dog person, and I get it.  I have seen the difference therapy dogs make in the lives of injured service members and veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital and with senior citizens.

Alexander hit home when she discussed their plans to serve disabled veterans.  These current wars are different.  Thanks to advances in medical treatment, our veterans injured in combat are surviving (thank God) in much greater numbers.  

Every war has a “signature wound” and IED’s  (Improvised Explosive Devices) are particularly ugly in that regard.  Today’s warriors are surviving with much greater challenges.  They need all the help they can get to overcome those challenges.  Rainbow is building a program that provides therapy to help Veterans and their families get their lives back.

From the center’s brochure, “Wounded Warriors at Rainbow Center is a program supporting the physical and emotional healing of men and women in the armed forces who have been injured in the line of duty. A treatment team of instructors, an Equine Specialist, and mental health professional personalize and implement each session. Current programs focus on recovery and exercise after brain injury, amputation or PTSD. Active Duty Personnel and their families receive the benefits of care outside the hospital setting, in a private and dignified manner.”

The Center works with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Wounded Warrior Care Center to identify and accept referrals from all of the Military Services.  Its program addresses both mental and physical challenges that Veterans face.  Ms. Gotthardt pointed out that the Center takes a holistic approach to treatment. 

Recovery is a family affair, and family members actively participate in the program.

Money is an issue for the program. 

Sequestration, threats to DoD and VA funding, and the fluid state of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (to name a few) all add uncertainty to the level of service the center provides to the community.  This is ironic (not in a good way) as wars wind down, and greater numbers of Veterans return to Prince William County in need of a little help.

I was accompanied on my visit by Angela McConnell, the Co-Chair of the Prince William Veterans Council (PWVC).  The PWVC acts as a “connector” between Veterans and resources. McConnell was interested in this program to see how the PWVC might be one more dot to connect in the puzzle of helping our Veterans.

I thank Katherine Gotthardt, the Outreach Manager for the Center, for taking the time to introduce me to the Rainbow Riding Center’s Wounded Warriors Program.  I appreciate the hard work that all of the volunteers and staff do to help our community. 

Veterans deserve a rainbow now and then.  While the Center does have some generous benefactors, they always need volunteers and money.  This is where you might check into donating either or both.

If you would like to learn more, my good friends Bill Golden and Connie Moser created an excellent video, Debi Alexander and Katherine Gotthardt interviewed for PWC Round Table

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