Veterans in Tennessee use horses to cope with PTSD

PEGRAM, TN (WMC) - A Vietnam War veteran in Tennessee is using horses to help fellow war veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Joe Cottingham took his retirement money and started a non-profit to help veterans heal and reconnect through training horses after he realized he suffered from PTSD.

"There was no such thing as PTSD as far as anybody knew when we got back," said Cottingham, who started Heroes and Horses Healing, located about 30 minutes outside of Nashville. "I heard someone say that a horse is a 1,500-pound lie detector. There's no BS'ing a horse, ya' know, and these veterans don't want any of that either. Some of these guys don't want to open up too much, but they can get more confident with a horse."

Veterans who participate in the program learn how to handle their PTSD by training horses.

This method is called Equine Therapy, and it's helping veterans reconnect with life outside of war.

"Hadn't deployed since 2007, so it was almost 10 years, and I still hadn't connected," Tim Hook, a veteran suffering from PTSD, said. "Moose (one of the horses veterans train) helped me connect again with who I am, and I think all veterans, if they have ability to take this opportunity, it's a wonderful thing."

The horses are also benefiting from the interactions with the veterans. Many of them have anxiety and abandonment issues.

"These horses are special because of the recovery they've made," Hook said.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.