LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A therapeutic riding program in Lenoir City is proving so powerful for veterans that one participant said he chose therapy sessions over his job.
"The job wasn't worth losing this," Corey Hendrix said of Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding, or STAR. He said he couldn't attend sessions while working for his previous employer so he quit.
The program, called Heroes and Horses, uses horses to heal a variety issues, Jim O'Brien said. "Some of those injuries are physical, some are mental -- all of them are debilitating."
"They come in with fear, discomfort. The horses break that," said Robin Bowen, an instructor with the program. She became involved almost a dozen years ago when her son Michael was deployed to Iraq.
"The horses don't judge them," she told WVLT News Reporter Robert Grant.
Riders like Mark Brogan explained how the horses changed his life in a way he didn't think was possible.
"When I was on patrol, a suicide bomber came up behind me and blew himself up," said Brogan.
Brogan joined the program nearly eight years ago. He's now riding on his own, "It's a big accomplishment."
Other riders like Corey Hendrix said the bond with the animals helps him cope and live a better life.
"Just the bond between the animal and people here. It helps that there's other veterans that understand," said Hendrix.
STAR offers several programs designed to help people through the healing power of horses. The therapeutic riding program serves people of all ages with varying types of special needs. Its Heroes and Horses program helps veterans with disabilities. Changing Strides caters to at-risk youth, and Minis In Motion uses miniature horses and donkeys for tours at schools and long term care facilities.
STAR has two facilities, one in Lenoir City and another in South Knoxville.
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