Group's 'Horseplay' Benefits Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2007 - There's no horsing around when it comes to helping servicemembers down the road to recovery, as far as one troop-support group is concerned.

"'Back in the Saddle Bit by Bit' ... helps wounded military heroes and their families regain physical and mental fitness by riding and working with horses," Jeanie Clifford, the organization's founder, said. "BITS is a (nonprofit) entity and operates as a clearinghouse that identifies qualified programs around the country so that these heroes can participate in these programs close to home."

Case studies have proven that equine therapy helps improve self-esteem, coordination, problem-solving skills, balance and strength, according to the organization's Web site.

"Equine therapy techniques have achieved great success in cases of individuals suffering severe physical injuries and brain trauma," Clifford said on the group's Web site. "These individuals have succeeded in reaching goals that others would take for granted, such as sitting unaided, standing for extended periods of time, and the ability to move a body part at will."

BITS, a supporter of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, makes sure these newly minted "cowboys" have a chance to show their stuff, as well. Servicemembers working with BITS have been invited to participate in local equine events.

America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

BITS, a Colorado-based group, also works to help veterans in its program find employment. The organization's members are turning to a network of corporations, local companies and nonprofit groups.

The group's officials hope to expand its program to reach as many servicemembers as possible through fundraising efforts. The money raised will allow programs across the country to provide the unique therapy to servicemembers at little or no cost, Clifford said.

BITS recently launched its first national fundraiser. Those wishing to participate need do nothing more than flip open their cell phones and text message the word "BITS" to the number 90999. Each message costs $9.99, with the net proceeds benefiting the organization. Each entry also puts the participant in the running to win a new truck. The final drawing will be Dec. 15.
Group's 'Horseplay' Benefits Troops [ ]