Vets find healing with horses

It began as a sharp pain behind his left eye that would snake its way into his entire head. It was worse than any migraine, Spear said, and could only be described as if someone was drilling into his brain with an auger bit.

Nothing could stop it.

Not the most potent drugs.

Not banging his head on the floor.

It was a pain he dealt with every day for 30 years.

Then he enrolled in Idaho Horse Therapy’s Re-Boot Camp.

And the pain went away.

In May, Spear met Selene Kepila, a certified provider of brainwave optimization, at the camp meant to help rehabilitate veterans. Spear said he hasn’t had a cluster headache since using the therapy.

On Friday, Spear and six other veterans who went through the program in May met up at Black Butte Ranch north of Shoshone. They were taking part in a Re-Boot reunion.

Spear, 55, was 23 when he was a member of the 82nd Airborne Special Forces team. He was demonstrating how to throw a grenade for National Guard soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., when it went off prematurely 5-feet away from him. He is legally blind in his left eye because of flash burn.

“I’m here to re-boot, literally,” he said.

Re-Boot Camp is a program designed for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and includes treatments such integrated breathing and movement, brainwave optimization and equine assisted activities. All of which would be used during the reunion.

The get-together Friday was like a tune up for the group, a chance to check in with them and see how they were progressing. Spear drove from Emmett for the weekend program.

“Selene, I want to thank you,” Spear said. “You said you would do it.”

“No, your brain did it,” Kepila replied.

“I tell everyone about it,” Spear said.

In addition to the seven returning veterans, two new veterans and two non-military participants took part in the three-day reunion. It is the second time Re-Boot Camp has held a reunion. The Re-Boot Camp and its reunion is free to its participants.

In March, Idaho Horse Therapy opened its first business venture — the Idaho Veterans Thrift Store in Shoshone. The store helps provide its free veterans programs. Idaho Horse Therapy was founded by Johnny Urrutia and his wife, Karla Davis. Their nonprofit initially started with equine therapy for troubled youth, but expanded into helping veterans.

What makes their program different from others, Urrutia said, is that it goes beyond talk and recreational therapy. It also is an alternative to prescription medication.

“We are getting better,” Urrutia said of veteran’s programs. “We are getting more holistic.”

Urrutia said their programs teach veterans skills to help them when they are not in therapy.

A recent donation to the program will allow all the participants of the three-day reunion to take home their own brain optimization portal home. Each one costs about $1,300.

Brain optimization works by putting sensors on the scalp to read the brain’s rhythms. The software translates this activity into celestial, acoustic and orchestra sounds.

It’s an acoustic mirroring of the brain that helps the brain self heal, Kepila said. During sessions patients can feel a deep sense of relaxation. The healing process can then occur from the inside out, she explained.

She watches her client’s brain activity on her computer screen. She spends a maximum of 90 minutes on each client. She has used the therapy to help people as young as 3-months-old up to 80-years-old.

“When we have a cut, we don’t know how to fix it,” Kepila said. “But the body does.”

Brian Ames, 35, of Nampa, used to hike up into the mountains and sit by a creek. The sound of water relieved his stress. He was in the Navy for two years, and he used to have one or two anxiety attacks a week. He’s only had two since the camp in May.

Ames said he was skeptical the first time he tried it. His first session took place inside a barn on an air mattress. His session Friday was on a bed inside a home north of Shoshone at Black Butte Ranch.

He said the therapy helps him fall into a meditative state.

“I don’t even need to know what their symptoms are,” Kepila said. “When the brain is relaxing, it heals on its own terms.”

Kepila said many people tell her “that won’t help me,” but thank her in the end.

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