Four legged animals helping wounded warriors

Bethlehem Therapeutic Riding Stables is now home to a wounded warrior therapy program.

The Stables is housed at Tally Ho Equestrian Center on Lawson Grove Road near Timmonsville in Darlington County.

Gwendolyn Maddrix and Katrina Hutto will run the program.

They said their facility was already a certified therapy center, but met the gold standard through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) to help wounded veterans.

"That was our main goal or only goal so we could reach out to them. Be a part of them and help them," said Gwendolyn Maddrix.

"We were jumping up and down screaming. We were very very excited." said Katrina Hutto.

Hutto and Maddrix said the horses can really provide great therapy for veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Maddrix said,"Horseback therapy is so important with post traumatic stress disorder. Because working around them and being out in the sunshine and developing that relationship with them. Horses feed off of your senses. How you're feeling, your emotions. They sense it. They're very sensitive to that. So if you're feeling angry, then they're going to feel that and react to that. So, you learn to control those emotions being around the horses. You have to do that. Stay calm and feel happy around them and secure. So it's really beneficial to the PTSD."

The program has already helped in the therapy of one wounded veteran.

Maddrix explained, "Complete left side was affected. His balance has increased tremendously. He scored the highest he ever done on a balance test. The amazing thing especially when someone is "rehabbing" with walking the amazing thing about therapeutic horseback is the therapy simulates walking. So even though it's the horse that's walking your mind is feeling that it's you walking."

"After the first lesson, he saluted us. He made all of us ladies stand in a row and he saluted us. I mean we were. It was bringing tears to our eyes," said Hutto.

Bethlehem Therapeutic Riding Stables is the only facility of its kind within a 150 mile service area.

The center could treat more than 6,000 wounded warriors in the Pee Dee and beyond.