Holy Name Medical Center and the Unbridled Heroes Project announced a new partnership that will bring a horse-assisted therapy program for military veterans to Villa Marie Claire, the hospital’s residential hospice in Saddle River.
Two rescued mustangs now live on the 26-acre property, which features newly built stables and pasture fencing in a safe and peaceful setting. This therapeutic rehabilitation program was founded in September of 2018 by Amy McCambridge-Steppe and Mark Steppe —both military veterans – and connects service members and others who have experienced trauma with wild horses.
“The relationship between veterans and our wild horses is mutually beneficial,” said Amy McCambridge-Steppe. “They comfort and heal one another. It’s a beautiful process that takes time and trust, but it is life changing and in some cases, life-saving. Both our veterans and the horses we’ve rescued have lived through their own traumas, but together create a new way to experience the world while they bond. Mark and I know this firsthand, having gone through it ourselves. Now, we’re thrilled to be able to pay that experience forward at Villa Marie Claire. It provides a serene retreat for our veterans, and there’s this incredible feeling of hope and peace when you’re there.”
The non-profit is also working with Villa Marie Claire’s clinical team to expand the program to include hospice patients and families, covid-19 survivors, and healthcare personnel. Those initiatives are expected to launch in the fall.
“The timing of this partnership could not be more perfect,” said Dr. Charles Vialotti, medical director of Villa Marie Claire. “While we are living in uncertain times, we’ve found a constant in the mission our organizations share. We’re both in the business of improving a person’s quality of life. From our perspective, this program tackles a twofold problem. First, it allows us to acknowledge that mental health services like these are critical for those who are suffering. Second, hosting this program at the Villa helps to show how hospice care is really about living well in the moment and allowing families to make meaningful memories. The documented benefits of equine therapy go far beyond improved physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Connecting people with these beautiful animals will energize their spirit and enrich their quality of life.”
The program pairs veterans with mustangs for 90 minutes every week over the course of four weeks. Participants will experience a range of activities, including observing, grooming, leading, and interacting with the horses.
For more information about the Unbridled Heroes Project at Villa Marie Claire, go to VillaMarieClaire.org/horses.