FORT BENNING, Ga. - After more than 20 years without riding, SGT Jerry Goodwin was back in the saddle.
He was one of nearly 40 Soldiers and family members with the Warrior Transition Battalion who took part in the Wounded Warrior Horsemanship program Saturday at Wetherby Field.
"I loved it," said Goodwin, who used to ride horses as a child. "It's a great event, and it's a great atmosphere, but mostly it's just something relaxing. It just felt right."
Goodwin PCSed to the WTB after his post-traumatic stress disorder - following a yearlong deployment to Iraq - became too much to handle. Not only did he get to ride Saturday, but he also picked up practical information about caring for horses.
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"I'd like to get into some recreational riding - something that will get me outdoors more," he said. "It's hard to motivate myself sometimes ... so I need something. This gives me the opportunity."
The horsemanship event included stations about grooming, anatomy and horseshoeing, riding demonstrations and practical exercises where Soldiers and family members could ride the horses.
Soldiers from the 11th Engineer Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Noncommissioned Officer Academy and 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment came out to support the event. More than 100 Soldiers, family members and veterans attended the event, said CSM(R) Samuel Rhodes, who coordinated the annual event, now in its second year.
"The Soldiers need it. It gives them an outlet," said Rhodes, who owns four horses and struggles with PTSD. "They have thoughts from past experiences in the war, and the best way to help these ... veterans is to provide something else they can do that might take their mind off the bad experiences and give them a new discovery of something they like to do."
Rhodes said he hopes to create a club where wounded warriors can come ride horses once a quarter.
"It kind of gives them a better perspective about life in general," he said. "It's therapeutic. If you're riding a horse, you can't be thinking about anything else. It makes you focus on what you're doing right there at that time."
MAJ Clifford Crooke, assigned to the WTB because of a knee injury, said he enjoyed the ride.
"It's a nice, soothing, social outlet ... just being in control of a horse," he said. "The motion, that's the most therapeutic aspect: the rhythm."
WTB Commander LTC Sean Mulcahey said he was happy to support the event, which was "bigger and better" than last year's, and he plans to support future events.
"Working with the animals, in particular the horses, is very therapeutic and relaxing for Soldiers," Mulcahey said. "It gives them an opportunity to interact with animals with very positive effects. It also allows us to bring families together. That's always a big benefit for us when you have families come together."
To get involved with future events, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.