The Xena Project is a veteran-operated 501(c)3 that facilitates healing of veterans and their families through equine therapy, animal encounters, and peer counseling. Located west of Houston, we are the only initiative of our kind in the country and attract a broad spectrum of needs, including veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and individuals with traumatic physical or brain injury.
In 2015, our first full year in operation, The Xena Project served approximately 500 veterans and family members through five fundamental programs, all provided free of charge:
Group Days – Groups from fellow veteran-focused organizations experience a day of multi-faceted healing that includes the riding simulator, animals, food, fellowship, and special offerings. We held eight Group Days in 2015, including a Thanksgiving event for veterans in-residence for PTSD treatment during the holidays. Group Days are vital to developing the sense of community necessary for long-term relationships with those we serve; nearly all outreach to date has been through word-of-mouth. The sense of connection is so pronounced that one combat veteran who was part of many of our programs requested to hold his wedding here at the facility, in the company of fellow veterans.
Private Sessions – Mounted instruction is offered on a fully interactive riding simulator, the only of its kind in the country; un-mounted work takes place with horses. The simulator helps individuals become aware of how the physical body is reacting to anxiety, depression, anger, stress, or PTSD symptoms. Fully accessible by hydraulic wheelchair lift, it is also a useful physical training tool. The simulator ran for more than 150 hours of private instruction in 2015. More than 100 hours of ground training took place with horses, including miniature horse “Star.”
Counseling – Peer coaching and support is available in both group and one-on-one formats to help combat veterans find healing, balance and positive re-integration with their families and in society. Pastoral care is also available through our chaplain. In 2015, approximately 300 hours of Peer Counseling were conducted privately and in small groups by the Chaplain and five veterans certified as Peer Combat Care and Trauma Counselors through the Alliance of Christian Counselors. As our counseling programs grow, The Xena Project welcomes an increasingly high degree of need, including an increasing number of veterans searching for tools to help combat chronic depression, anxiety, and/or suicidal tendencies.
Family Reunification – Provides a haven for veterans in family turmoil to experience positive bonding events. Each family’s experience is different, and may include animals, art, or the riding simulator. The Xena Project welcomed nearly 50 families in 2015.
Animal Encounters – Hundreds of veterans and family members interacted with horses, dogs, cats, goats, llamas, and others throughout our first year to promote relaxation, ease anxiety, and stimulate healing.
The veterans we serve, especially those struggling with PTSD, must develop new tools and skill sets in order to reach and maintain health, or, in dire cases, stay alive. We incorporate art, meditation, and yoga into these fundamental programs as additional healing tools.
More than 80% of veterans participating in programs at The Xena Project served in combat, including Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; more than one third of participating veterans served in Vietnam.