Skip to Content

Horses Helping Veterans

The Whole Health and Mental Health Services at the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System collaborate with community partners to provide equine-assisted services to Veterans. The primary offering is equine-assisted psychotherapy but other options, such as trail riding and horsemanship skills training may also be available. There may also be opportunities to participate in research.

Horses Helping Veterans Program at Salt Lake City VA Health Care System

Equine-assisted psychotherapy

Dr. Marchand provides equine-assisted psychotherapy for Veterans in both group and individual formats. In this six-session program, the focus is on developing or enhancing mindfulness and self-compassion skills in the context of the participant forming a relationship with an equine partner. Each session includes meditation, discussion and spending time with a horse. Participants work with the same horse at each session in order to develop a relationship with that equine through grooming and leading. There is no riding and horse experience is not required. For more information call: 801-582-1565, ext. 3025

In addition, other staff provide equine-assisted psychotherapy for Veterans enrolled in specialized treatment programs, such as Warrior Renew and addictive disorders treatment.


William R. (Bill) Marchand, MD, is the director of the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System Equine-assisted Services program. He is certified by PATH, Intl. as an equine specialist in mental health and learning as well as by Eagala to provide equine-assisted psychotherapy.  He is an academic psychiatrist, mindfulness teacher, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine and adjunct professor of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences at the Utah State University.

His research interests include studies of the utilization and outcomes of the Whole Health model of care in general with a primary focus on the benefits of equine-assisted services for Veterans. He grew up owning and riding horses and currently spends much of his free time hanging out with his quarter horse gelding, Goldie.

Community partners

Utah State University Pathways to Horsemanship

Pathways to Horsemanship is a therapeutic horsemanship curriculum utilizing standardized methods that are specifically designed to cultivate the human and equine bond and helps to develop a sense of connection, trust, and accomplishment for participants. Participating veterans are paired with a horse and a Veteran mentor as they learn about equine behavior, care and handling, and basic riding skills. Beyond serving Veterans and military service members, the USU Equine Experience program supports a wide variety of Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies to include Adaptive Riding, Hippo-therapy and Equine Assisted Learning sessions for children and adults and is a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International recognized center. Learn more about Pathways to Horsemanship.

Ride Utah! 

Ride Utah! is an equine extension program that has been developed by Utah State University to provide a trail ride experience for Veterans or military personnel and an invited guest. Trail rides are held throughout the summer and fall ranging from Cache Valley to St. George and San Juan County. Equine trail rides have been shown to be relaxing, provide enjoyment, as well as improve relationships with friends and family. Ride Utah! consists of a 2–hour trail ride and lunch. Learn more about Ride Utah!

National Ability Center

The National Ability Center empowers individuals of all abilities by building self-esteem, confidence and lifetime skills through sport, recreation and educational programs. Learn more about the National Ability Center.

Rebel Soul Wranglers Horse Ranch and Training School


For more information about the Horses Helping Veterans program, please contact: (801-582-1565, ext. 3025 or send an email to

Upholding Valor podcast: Equine Therapy

Spiritual healing can be just as important as physical healing. In this week’s Upholding Valor, we look at VA’s Equine Therapy Program and how horses help heal our Veterans.

Listen to the Upholding Valor podcast about Equine Therapy.

Equine-assisted therapy helps Veterans

Six legs trod across a sandy arena. Hooves and feet sink in the dirt as horse and Veteran move as one. It’s called a “Trust Walk,” but where the Veterans are going isn’t as important as why they’re there. Read the story, Equine-assisted therapy helps Veterans.