COLORADO SPRINGS — A local organization is helping the military community heal with horses. It's called The Remount Foundation, which provides equine assisted learning to military men and women and their families.
The Airforce Academy Equestrian Center is home to the foundation, where there are more than 175 horses who help heal. The animals have a very important job in helping wounded warriors overcome challenges or behavioral health issues they've faced after serving.
Jeanne Springer and Billy Jack Barrett co-founded the organization in 2009, and since then, they've been providing help and hope on the home-front for nearly 6,000 people.
"All we ever did was answer the need that was there. We started having primarily soldiers coming out here in the early 2000's, that were coming back from hot deployments in Iraq," said Springer. "We would put them to work, helping with tours on the ranch, and we'd also put them on horseback."
Back in the early 2000's, the two said the warriors would come back from serving and help them around the stables with feeding and caring for horses and other chores.
"We had people from all branches of military that came here for the quiet and peace this place brings," said Jack Barrett, who's also a U.S. Army veteran.
Michael Thrune, a U.S. army veteran is among the thousands of people the foundation has helped in the past few years. He was deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005 while serving the country.
"I had a couple friends commit suicide, and I didn't take it too well, and I started having the same thoughts, and suicide started too become probable for me," said Thrune. "After leaving the army, I felt like I was being isolated and this organization brought me in."
After being in the military for 13 years, Thrun was medically discharged in 2017, and sought help from the Remount Foundation.
"They gave me a place to be welcomed, no matter how I was feeling. Even on my bad days, they would call me, and make sure I was getting up. It just motivated me, and it gave me something to be a part of," said Thrune. "I owe them my life. I probably wouldn't be here without the Remount Foundation."
The Airforce Academy Equestrian Center is just under 1,000 acres in size, and offers group and individual sessions for those like Gillian Francis Sirlez.
"I'm a survivor of military sexual trauma from the Navy, and I was using drugs and alcohol to cover it up," said Francis Sirlez.
She's also one of the 25 people the equestrian center helps daily, and after turning her life around, she says she's now she's helping others.
"I'm out here every day and it has changed my life. I've been sober for five years," said Francis Sirlez, who's been with the organization for nearly six years. "The peace of the horses has lifted me up, to a point where now I want to give back everything that I've gone through, and help others that are struggling and it helps me."
"At the stables, I see the magic every day. I see people come with groups and they're crying, but when they hug the horse, you can see the stress come out of their faces," Francis Sirlez added.
For Springer and Jack Barrett, they're thankful to be able to make a difference for the military community.
"There's just no greater blessing in watching people come from a place of darkness into a place of light," said Springer, who's also a military spouse. "For me, this is helping family and it's helping bring soldiers home and reunite as families. It's also helping heal my own family."
"As a veteran, being able to help other spouses or children, it is a big blessing," said Jack Barrett.
The organization also helps local first responders, as well as children dealing with conditions like trauma, behavioral disorders and autism.
The Remount Foundation got its name in the early 1900's, when the U.S. Army established the remount service. It was a program that provided horses for armies and troops.
On August 4, the organization will be holding their second charity golf tournament called Birdies, Eagles & Heroes. For more information about the organization or the tournament, click here.