Veterans building relationships with horses, finding help with PTSD


BURT, N.Y. (WIVB) — Several horses gruff as they’re walking around the ring inside the stables at Equistar. The men and women controlling the reigns have experience with horses; for some, it only started recently though, as little as six months ago.

“It was like we both came in together and we’ve been here for six months now,” said Dave Zaleski, one of the handlers who is an Army National Guard veteran.  “It’s been enjoyable and pleasurable.”

Zaleski found his way to the Veterans One Stop Center a few years back. There, he learned about the partnership between Equistar and the center.

“Everyone wins when we get vets involved, using the strengths they’ve learned in the military and putting that into our community,” said Alex Lauer, the Director of Engagement for Veterans One Stop.

The horses in the stables frequently work with children with disabilities. During the week, the veterans are caring for the mares and geldings – grooming and walking them.

“I can walk him for an hour and it eases my anxiety,” said Zaleski, talking about a quarter horse, named Chex.

He says the bad dreams started 27 years ago.

“You’ll be driving and smell something and go back to a scene.”

It took him seven years to be diagnosed with PTSD and even longer to begin receiving help. It wasn’t until April, though, that he realized the dreams were beginning to subside a bit. While he wishes that happened sooner, he believes being in the right place at the right time, lead him to this stable, with a horse that has made all the difference.

“Chex really did change my life.”

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