Huffpost Impact
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Clarissa Burt Headshot

Soldiers in Saddles

Posted: Updated:
Print

Violence, killing and the horrors of war are incredibly difficult for the human psyche to endure. How do veterans, fresh from the rigors of war, cope with the emotional pain? Healing is a slow process and many are left with psychological damage that affects them the rest of their lives.

Sadly, military suicides are rising every day. Recent studies indicate that one service member commits suicide every hour, a startling statistic that demands answers. How can we help these representatives of American freedom ease back into everyday life? How can we stop so many of our American heroes from becoming a part of the statistic that ravages our nation?

Enter Saddles for Soldiers; a program created by the Shadow Hills Riding Club that helps soldiers re-enter society after their time of duty. The subject of a PSA by Women In Film, Saddles for Soldiers helps ease veteran's psychological distress by providing equine therapy, a treatment that has seen much success. The therapy, according to the organization, is easing, relaxing, and helps many soldiers down the path to peace and healing. Tobie Loomis, Women In Film's executive producer for the PSA project outlines the many benefits that Saddles for Soldiers provides, saying that Saddles for Soldiers has done much "to help soldiers assimilate back into society"; however, Saddles for Soldiers isn't just helping soldiers assimilate. It is also saving lives.

Each and every one of the people working have nothing but admiration concerning the results that "Saddles" has on returning veterans. Co-Writer for the PSA, Vickie Sampson, met a soldier during filming who agrees that Saddles for Soldiers "literally saved his life," even though he "wasn't really a horse person"; and the praise doesn't stop there. Madelynn Amalfitano, the co-writer and Director of the PSA, says that it is a truly "incredible program" that is "not only helping these people, but saving lives," while project producer Gwenn Smith agrees, asserting that "the program is truly essential to help post-traumatic stress disorder in people who... do not want to admit they have any sort of problem." After all, as Vickie Sampson argues, when it comes to psychiatry, "just your presence heals," and a horse's ability to just be there, while allowing you to "get out of yourself" can truly make a difference in a soldier's life, particularly when there's nowhere else to go.

But, to truly understand the effort that has gone into fixing this horrendous problem one also must understand the role Women In Film has had in helping Saddles for Soldiers spread the word about equine therapy. I spoke to executive producer Tobie Loomis to get more information about this joint effort. According to her, Women In Film, "a non-profit that mentors and provides programming for women in the film industry", and the Women In Film PSA Production Program, a program which she co-chairs, help produce PSAs for exemplary nonprofit charities.

Each year the PSA Production Program interviews "eight or nine charities" to make pitches, after which four are awarded the opportunity to produce a PSA with the PSA Production Program; and, when Saddles for Soldiers made their pitch, there was "not a dry eye in the room." As Loomis says, hearing the veteran Saddles for Soldiers brought in to speak for the pitch -- "who has gone into battle, come and be so raw, and emotional and real" about his life -- made for an "incredible experience."

As a result of this pitch, Saddles for Soldiers was chosen receive a PSA and, thus, was given the means to help spread the word about their wonderful charity. With the constant guidance of the PSA Production Program, a budget of $7,000.00, free work from a crew of 75-plus, the PSA birthed from those resources, and, of course, with the combined effort of these organizations, Saddles for Soldiers hopes to get on the radar of the national conscious, so the world may see the good work they are doing. Thanks to Women In Film, and the amazing people who work for free for these incredible causes -- and have been doing so for 20 years -- this hope can now become a reality.

"There is something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man," a quote by Winston Churchill, is the sentiment this nonprofit lives by. And, with the help of the Women In Film PSA Production Program, Saddles for Soldiers hopes to spread that sentiment around the nation. Truly, with the military suicide rate rising every day, a solution needs to be found -- perhaps this isn't the only solution that will cure all of this wrong, but it can be a start.

To see the "Soldiers in Saddles" Women in Film PSA, click here.

By Clarissa Burt with Tyler Fleck