How to Save a Life – Blue Star Ranch helps veterans rebuild with equine-assisted psychotherapy
by Kirsten Quinn (élite Magazine) | Nov 18, 2016 | Spotlight
A year ago, Manny Perdomo didn’t like horses. He did not want to ride one, and he certainly did not want to try another form of therapy that didn’t work. But on a recent warm October morning, as he stood next to Jack, the horse naturally moved toward him. As Manny explained the basics of equine-assisted psychotherapy, his body language, demeanor and mood naturally attracted the horse.
Jack stood calmly by his side, and Manny responded to Jack’s every movement as if it was second-nature, involuntary even. Manny moved; Jack moved. Manny calmed; Jack calmed. The two were intimately connected in a way that made words unnecessary. Something greater was happening at Blue Star Ranch in Saugus, and it looked like healing.
When Manny returned home from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, it felt like leaving one version of Hell only to land in a new one. Anger and fear consumed his thoughts and controlled his actions, and immediately he began grasping at fixes: a cocktail of medications, various forms of talk therapy, anything that would help. But none of it really did.
“When you’re in war, every day you think: Am I going to die tomorrow? Who will get shot today?” he recalled of his time overseas. “You’re stripped of your humanity and pushed to your breaking point. When you come back, there’s no reverse process to make you feel human again. You’re numb.”
Diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Manny battled crippling anxiety, anger and insomnia, watching the effects of his emotions spill over onto his wife and young children.
“The thing with PTSD is you don’t even know you have it,” he said. “It’s masked, concealed. Your anger just escalates until, one day, you’re out in public, punching the concrete until your knuckles bleed.”
Manny eventually found his rock bottom, and with nowhere else to go but up, he began to search for inspiration. He covered his house with phrases and words that made him feel positive and hopeful, and in his darkest hour, he thought about his duty.