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UT program aims to help first responders through horsemanship

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023   

A new program in Utah wants to help first responders learn to recognize and work through their traumatic life events through horsemanship. This coming Saturday, Rein in Response will be holding its first official and free kickoff event in La Verkin.

Taylor Graff, owner of Rein in Response, said sessions are set to begin early next year and added while pricing is still being finalized, participants will pay a part of the total cost while sponsors will pay the balance.

Graff said she has been working with an equine therapist to develop the curriculum, which will teach first responders skills and tools to better manage trauma. For Graff, it's personal -- her father was a police officer for years, and felt the impacts of events he experienced on the job.

"Our family dynamics changed, relationships changed, and my dad changed. It was a really big deal, and none of us knew how to deal with it," Graff said. "We did not have the emotional intelligence to figure out what was going on."

An estimated 30% of first responders and public health workers can develop depression and post traumatic stress disorder, compared with 20% in the general population, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Graff said it is important to note the program isn't intended to act or replace actual therapy, but rather to be an outlet where one can release and get in better tune with their emotions.

She noted people can learn a lot from horses, since they'll react based on a combination of their own personalities and human behavior toward them. She adds that participants, in partnership with a horse, will learn how to read, de-escalate and negotiate situations in the round pen.

"We teach them how to get the horse back up and just going crazy, and then bringing them back down -- and we relate it to them. Then we teach them how that works in themselves and how they can do it with their families," she continued.

Graff wants first responders to know Rein in Response is there to show support and offer help, and adds it's always important "to lift those that are lifting us."


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