Orlando-based David Vernaza, 43, a retired Navy Seabee, remembers scanning a group of horses in front of him and settling on a feisty gray quarter horse gelding named Jake. “I want that one,” he remembers saying.
Vernaza wasn’t going for a trail ride or a lesson — he was looking for a horse to change his life through horse therapy for PTSD. In 2004, he was wounded in combat in Iraq when an IED (improvised explosive device) hit him, left him with a traumatic brain injury, and ended his Navy career.
The experience also left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that affects one of every three troop members coming home from combat, according to the PTSD Foundation of America. PTSD can lead people to lose touch with their emotions, behave aggressively, and feel irritable, the National Institutes of Health states.
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