Skip to Content

Equine Therapy Community Partnerships

grandfather and granddaughter riding horses together
Jake McCracken, U.S. Navy Submariner does equine therapy at the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center. His granddaughter rides horses so it is a great way for them to share time together.

Did you know the Butler VA Health Care System currently has 4 Veteran Community Partnerships for equine therapy?

Veteran Community Partnerships (VCPs) are organized partnerships that bring together VA staff and community organizations to build relationships, exchange information, educate each other and the public on resources available to Veterans and collaborate to reduce barriers that impede Veteran’s access to care or services.

The Butler VA currently has equine therapy partnerships with:

  • Storm Harbor Equestrian Center (Slippery Rock, PA)
  • Heavenly Gaits Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. Soldiers and Spur Program (Knox, PA)
  • Elliot Acres Therapeutic Riding Center (Butler, PA)
  • Fly High with Horses, Trails End Conservancy, Inc. (Hermitage, PA)

The benefits of therapeutic riding are numerous, some of which include:

  • Improved endurance and strength
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Improved respiration/circulation
  • Improved motivation
  • Improved concentration and attention span

Jake McCracken, U.S. Navy Submariner is one of the Veterans utilizing equine therapy at the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center. He has been participating since May 2022 and plans to continue for as long as he can. He always wanted to learn to ride a horse, and his granddaughter rides horses so it is a great way for them to share time together.  

“Storm Harbor has a great group of people that are there to help others experience horses. It's great that the crew there knows what that could mean to someone and is sharing it with Vets and their families,” said Jake.  “The facility is really amazing with so many options for different people with or without disabilities. It is great that Storm Harbor is reaching out to Veterans and offering these lessons to us and our families.”

Kira Hillyard, U.S. Air Force Veteran also participates in equine therapy. She has been involved since 2018 and goes to Heavenly Gaits Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. Without riding, she isn’t sure where she would be now.

Kira was medically discharged from the Air Force with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and joint issues and torn muscles. After moving back in with my family and getting help from VA, things were slowly getting better…until she experienced more loss in her life. Kira felt lost until she learned about the Veterans program at Heavenly Gaits.

“I went from being nearly non-verbal, a-social, untrusting of anyone that wasn't family, or I didn't already know, to opening up and regaining my self-confidence,” Kira shared. “I began to socialize more and was able to get a job at a local company and made many friends there. I don't know where I would be without that opportunity, but I'm glad I'm here now."

Community collaboration is essential to effectively meet the needs of Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. Through partnerships, the Butler VA is working to better support Veterans and their families. In addition to the equine therapy partnerships, the Butler VA partners with YMCAs, a local art studio, musical programs, and more.

Learn more about the Butler VA Community Partnerships available by calling the Butler VA’s Veteran Community Partnerships (VCP) Coordinator at (878) 271-6484. All current partnerships are also available on the Butler VA’s Facebook page, under the album titled “Butler VA Community Partnerships” (

See all stories