Equestrian therapy helps men recovering from drug addiction

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CICERO, Ind. - A new program is helping men recover from drug addiction by interacting with horses. The 16-week program pushes the men to get out of their comfort zones and helps them realize what they can achieve, as they try to restart their lives.

Each Saturday, nine men from Progress House head to the Agape arena in Cicero. Progress House is one of Indianapolis' oldest drug addiction recovery centers. The men were chosen because they were considered "at risk." The participants go through exercises that help them realize the external and internal resources available to them as they fight their addictions. The goal is to teach them how to lead a horse.

Scott Lyons is among those in the class.

"You can’t hide anything from these animals," Lyons said. "It helps you get out of yourself and zone in on what I need to work on."

Lyons said he struggled with drugs and bad behavior in the past. Now, he says he wants to lead a lawful, healthy life.

"There’s no judgment, we’re all on the same page," Lyons said. "We are all here with one common goal and that’s to better ourselves to get reintegrated back into society."

The men have little experience with horses. But, the regular interaction with the animals, and even the roadblocks, make the program work.

"They’re working through their addiction and working through their recovery," said Linda Hazzard, program director. "And, they don’t know how to do that. Right now, they don’t know how to work with horses really well, so that’s the metaphor."

Throughout the course of the 16-week program, the men begin to feel more and more comfortable around the horses. According to Hazzard, they start to see that they are capable of overcoming an obstacle and succeeding at a task.

"Those are the same exact skills these guys need in their lives to get rid of their addictions," Hazzard said.

Dennis Norris is the executive director at Progress House. He said he knows the power of equestrian therapy first-hand. Norris tells CBS4 he turned to this form of therapy after his time serving in Afghanistan. This year, he wanted to bring that experience to the men at Progress House.

"They learn impulse control and they take that back to the house," Norris said. "This is really behavior training here at Agape and this supplements what we are trying to do."

Norris said Progress House hopes to continue to the partnership with Agape through the rest of the year and potentially even longer.

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