Paul Cornett is one of the first local veterans to participate in the new Horses Assisting Heroes program, which is offered by the Therapeutic Riding Institute, Inc. in Springboro.
Horses Assisting Heroes is a horseback riding program for veterans of recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Cornett now lives in Clayton and served in the Army for 18 years. He was deployed as part of Desert Shield, Desert Storm and as part of the 1st Armored Division for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004, where he was based out of the Baghdad International Airport. He was medically discharged in 2006.
“I am one hundred percent disabled through the VA with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I also have a Traumatic Brain Injury, The Gulf War Syndrome from the first Gulf War and I came down with Type I Diabetes that is related,” he said. “I got diagnosed when I was 37 and I’ve never had it before. There are about 50 more things that are all service-connected.”
Cornett and his wife, Faith have seven children and two grandchildren. At times, he said, he has to deal with things like isolation.
“I don’t like to go out in public. There are times that I go without even speaking to my family. I don’t know I am doing it but I do it,” Cornett said.
He found out about Horses Assisting Heroes through the Wounded Warrior Project. Last year, he participated in a pilot program with TRI.
“I loved the program and I loved my horse, Boo. At first it forced me to get out of the house. My wife made me do it on my own. So, I had to drive there and drive back,” Cornett expressed. “I spent an hour riding with Boo, who is a really awesome horse. It was a lot of fun and I looked forward to the next time I got to go.”
According to Program Director Cindy Redolfi, a few of the benefits of the program include allowing veterans to get connected with a community of friends and other veterans. It also helps them heal both physically and emotionally from the wounds of combat.
“Because of veteran’s experiences, or injuries, they are often unable to live a ‘normal’ life. After returning from war, a routine activity like going to the store, or the doctor may be impossible for some,” Redolfi said. “The program allows our veterans take their minds off of things and it helps them to refocus. Whether that’s going back to work, or facing doctor’s reports,” she continued.
With a recent April move to FineLine Stables at 5224 Dearth Road in Springboro, TRI celebrated its 40th anniversary and marked the expansion of services with the Horses Assisting Heroes program. So far, no veterans have been charged to ride. To donate or for more information, go to www.tridayton.com. A few of the organization’s current needs include the need for an additional horse for the program as well as volunteers.