Galloping film critic Amanda Ronan reviews this documentary about Horse Sense and Soldiers, an intensive program for veterans suffering from PTSD led by Monty Roberts.
“No violence,” and “freedom of choice,” are the two most important issues when establishing a relationship with horses or humans according to Monty Roberts, the trainer highlighted in the Military Channel documentary Recon: Unbridled.
Monty goes on to discuss his own troubled childhood including his violent father. He states, “I had 72 broken bones before I was 12 years of age.” This horrific past led to his strong belief and strict adherence to a nonviolent approach to training horses.
He goes on to describe the technique he claims to have invented called “join up” where the horse chooses to come to you rather than run away.
A free three-day intensive program for veterans suffering from PTSD, called Horse Sense and Soldiers, is held at Monty’s California ranch. One-on-one sessions with the horses and group discussions are the foundation of the program along with private consultations with Monty each day.
One participant, Alejandra Sanchez, is a four-time participant of the clinic. One of only two women in her Iraqi unit, she remembers having a sudden fear that she “might not make it.”
After returning to the states, she was terrified of people walking behind her and would wake up in the middle of the night screaming. The clinic helped her regain confidence in working with unfamiliar people, allowing her to trust strangers in an unpredictable environment. “The horse would not respond to me if I was anxious, or angry, or violent,” she says.
Another clinic participant, Alicia Watkins, suffered from her PTSD in silence after being stationed at the Pentagon during 9/11 and losing several friends in New York. Alicia was deployed to Afghanistan and then Iraq shortly thereafter.
She did not return to the states until 2007, by then almost unrecognizable to her friends and family. PTSD, along with extensive physical injuries, drove Alicia into an isolated depression, eventually becoming homeless for nearly a year. Alicia’s family was entirely clueless until her story was aired on the Oprah Winfrey show.
The first time Alicia participated in Monty’s clinic, she discovered that the horse’s flight mentality was much like her own. To teach the horses to trust resonated with her deeply. Monty said it was “day and night” when asked about Alicia’s transformation from a shy, quiet nonparticipant to the most exuberant person at the clinic by the end of the weekend.
“When you’re here you don’t feel like a victim you feel like a victor,” states Alicia.
Watch the documentary:
For more information about Monty’s program, click here.