WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The 25th anniversary Equine Affaire is underway at the Big E with a new program this year dedicated to helping Veterans and active-duty military personnel overcome mental health challenges.

This organization is called Horses for Heroes, they’ve been conducting Equine Psychotherapy Sessions for ten years but this is their first time in New England. They run three-day seminars all over the country, welcoming in Veterans and active duty military personnel fighting mental health battles to bond with each other and these powerful animals.

22News asked Gerald Paulsen, the Executive Director of the organization, dog and cat therapy is pretty easy, so why horses?

“It’s the power of the horse. The horses can sense when somebody is nervous or uncomfortable. You get that Veteran up by that horse, they can start to bond. The horse can start to feel them and they can start to bond and vice versa,” said Paulsen.

Twenty-two veterans take their own lives every day in the United States, which he said during their exhibition Friday was one of the driving forces to start this program, to show people they are not alone in their battles and to put that empathy and power of the horse to use.

He added that they don’t have an active program anywhere in New England, so they are looking for an indoor facility with about 12 horses to partner with so they can expand their footprint out here.

Local News

Duncan MacLean is a reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2019. Follow Duncan on X @DMacLeanWWLP and view his bio to see more of his work.