A new nonprofit organization helping local veterans heal was welcomed to Livingston County Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Pinckney.

Warrior Path Home supports veterans in their transition from military to civilian life and work through personal issues by way of coaching and equine guided-learning. The nonprofit, created by Equine Guided Learning Facilitator/Coach Jill Haas, is described as providing therapeutic, multidimensional coaching in her programs that help clients achieve goals of better coping and life skills for less stress, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, and essentially helping to prevent suicide whenever possible for veterans. The programs, which are at no cost to veterans, are delivered through private or group coaching, and also may be in combination using horses as learning partners.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the organization’s inception was held Tuesday at the property where the coaching sessions take place. It was attended by elected officials, community members, program clients, and representatives from the Hartland, Howell and Brighton Area Chambers of Commerce. Janelle Best, President of the Howell Chamber, tells WHMI the nonprofit and its mission will greatly benefit the area and its veterans. Best says, "This is an outstanding asset for Livingston County and the work that Jill is doing is like no other. It's amazing to see and hear about the people she's helping and especially to be focusing on veterans and to provide this to veterans at no cost. We're really fortunate to have people like Jill in this community."

One of the organization’s clients, Brian, who is a veteran, has been working with Haas for the last six months and in the last month has begun working with the horses during his sessions. He shared his experience with those attending the ceremony, stating that the program has helped him immensely. Speaking about working with the horses Brian says, "It’s amazing how they can feel what you feel and you may not be showing it but it’s weird…that’s the best I can explain it. It’s helped me a lot, just learning how to deal with the trauma I’ve been through and being able to predict a better outcome that you want when things are tough. Instead of reacting negatively, you’re able to put it in a positive light."

Haas was inspired to expand her outreach after she began working with the Livingston County Veterans Treatment Court about three years ago. She feels equine coaching or equine guided learning is successful in helping individuals heal as it allows them to make a connection and progress by working with the horses, which she says are an excellent mirror for what someone is thinking, feeling, and even not saying. Haas says when partnering with a horse, there’s a "magical" experience when unexplainable things happen, like the timing of a head nod from the horse when the client has a breakthrough.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, Haas became emotional speaking about the journey in establishing Warrior Path Home and her passion for giving back to those that have sacrificed so much. She encourages community members to reach out to her and refer veterans or organizations that could benefit from the group’s services. More information about the group can be found at the link below. (DK)