Updated: Mar 12, 2020
By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — A local combat veteran is reaching out to other veterans on his farm in order to hush the war lingering inside their heads.
The V.E.T.S Program was established as a non-for-profit outreach program that helps veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and Alcoholism or Substance Abuse.
It launched on the Seeley Stables in Dansville around 2016. The Bath VA Hospital sends female and male veterans over a couple times a month to spend time with the farm animals and ride the horses.
Laura Seeley-Sick and husband, Iraq War Veteran, Colin Sick, have helped many veterans from the hospital over the past four years.
Sick joined the US Army right out of high school in 2000. He served from 2000 to December 2003. Sick was part of the 4thInfantry Division that captured Saddam Hussein in Dec. 13, 2003. This was known as Operation Red Dawn and was assigned to the First Brigade Combat Team of the 4thInfantry Division. Sick was treated at the Bath Va Hospital in 2013 for PTSD. After he met Seeley, he was introduced to the therapy of horseback riding, and how it literally saved his life.
Sick came back from the war with a lot of battle scars after suffering a back injury. He had to figure out how to battle his own demons, but with the treatments and the farm he found a way.
“I deal with my own demons. I just try to be a good husband and father to my girls,” he said. “When I came back from the war, I was a heavy drinker. I self-medicated with alcohol. I didn’t want to admit I was broken. There is a stigma around PTSD in the veteran community about admitting you have it means you are broken. That stigma is slowly going away with the awareness and treatments in place for veterans who have PTSD. We are starting to get more help now than they used to get.”
Sick said there are a lot of community forums on social media for veterans to turn to with PTSD. They can all come together for one another and talk in a more comfortable setting.
“Those online forums are a huge resource for us veterans. We can find one another and reach out to each other on the social media. They have an online forum for those of us who battle PTSD that is also very helpful,” he said. “Laura and I talked about how we were going to reach out to more veterans locally and help others with PTSD. That is why we started this program on the farm.”
Seeley-Sick said she saw a dramatic change in her husband once he got around the horses.
“Colin has a back injury from active duty. He didn’t want to ride very much. I had him on one of our horses who knows when you get to a certain part of the way home to speed up. That horse went speeding up on the hill, and I thought it was going to freak him out. When I caught up to him there was a huge grin on his face. Colin felt really free in that moment, and it was a nice adrenaline rush for him,” she said.
Seeley-Sick also provides horseback riding lessons for children. She would like to start that
up again for anyone in the community who would like to learn. Veterans are welcome to learn horseback riding on the farm as well.
“We didn’t need to get approval from the Bath Va for the program. We just went to them and described what our program was about to the veterans,” Seeley-Sick said. “I have been approved by the Mustang Heritage Foundation to have Mustangs on my farm working with the veterans. That is my ultimate goal at some point to do that in the future. The thing is we need to have one veteran to each Mustang working with that same horse all the time. We are trying to get grants to help us with the program as well since we are working to provide something long-lasting to help the veterans.”
There are about 10 veterans that attend the program so far, and they enjoy horseback riding, playing with the goats, walking around the farm, or just hanging out in the yard with the dog. It is all about making the veterans feel safe for a few hours.
Dunkin Donuts in Dansville donates a dozen donuts and coffee to the program as well. The program is open to any veteran and their families who would like to attend. There are no set hours, so if anyone is interested in the program, they can reach out to Seeley Stables at 585-734-7657 for more information. Seeley Stables is located at 1500 County Rte. 90 in Dansville. They can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.orgYou can visit their website at http://www.seeleystables.com/vets-program.html