Updated Nov. 14 at 11:16 a.m.
Holliston-based nonprofit Project ComeBack is on a mission to heal horses and humans. Since 2017, the organization has rehabilitated rescue horses with help primarily from veterans, a process that helps both recover from past experiences.
“The healing that happens out here is just absolutely incredible," founder and executive director Lindsay Andon said on Boston Public Radio. "The horses just being horses and being near them and connecting with them and helping them is just so healing for all the people that come out here, and vice versa.”
Andon was inspired by her experiences at other organizations. For her, these experiences helped her make sure this was her path to follow. Project ComeBack works with a variety of horses, from thoroughbreds to ex-racehorses to even feral mustangs. According to Andon, these horses have a variety of afflictions they are hoping to help heal.
“A lot of our thoroughbreds have issues with socialization and reintegrating into herd dynamics and herd behaviors, she said. "A lot of them grew up in a very isolated fashion and so they didn’t get that socialization as young foals.”
Mustangs, meanwhile, have the opposite problem: They socialize well with other horses but can have difficulty with people.
Andon said some programs focus on veterans while overlooking the needs of the animals, so she felt it was important to create a program that benefits all involved. Veteran Dave Shanahan, who participated in Project ComeBack, said that part — helping the horses heal and adapt — is important to him. He's seen horses really "come out of their shell" once they establish bonds.
“A lot of times vets feel with some of these programs that, ‘We’re kind of the victim’ coming in, or ‘We’re the person that’s damaged.’ Coming in and working with the horses and just really getting to be that partner, it just builds your confidence as well,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan said he did not have much prior experience with horses and was skeptical of the process at the start. But for veteran Scott Cousland, this program is a very natural one.
“Animals have always been a huge part of my support system ever since I was a boy,” Cousland said. “Me and animals go way back.”
Correction: This article was updated to correctly attribute the final quote to Cousland.