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Frontline workers are using equine therapy to cope with the daily stress of COVID-19

Veterans use equine therapy program through the veterans club. They are now expanding to help frontline heroes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of frontline workers have given it their all during the COVID-19 fight. More overtime, less pay, strenuous schedules, and watching people right in front of them, struggle with this deadly disease.

While they are putting on a brave face, many are struggling internally.

For the first time, in a long time, Celeste Hutt, the Lt. & Director of the Substance Abuse Treatment Program at the Shelby County Detention Center, is surrounded by serenity. She left the confines of her community and was captivated by an escape just a few miles away. 

"To get out of the concrete box that I work in, to market places and Walmart’s and standing in line, and everybody with their masks on, this is peaceful, this is relaxing," Hutt said. "When you're a helper, sometimes the last person you realize that needs help or needs care is yourself."

With the stresses that fill her brain on a regular basis, the sharp, fresh smells of the farm, quickly distract. On this farm in Taylorsville, Jeremy Harrell, the founder of the Veteran's Club, has an equine therapy program designed for veterans. But with these heroes needing an escape, he extended the program to anyone on the front lines.

"I can talk to this horse about anything," Hutt said. "I didn't have to think about work, I didn't have to think about the madness that's going on, all I have to think about is this animal right there.."

He is showing them just how important it is to take time for themselves, even if they are fighting a different kind of battle. 

"We want you to leave here a lot better than you came," Harrell said. "Maybe she's not in Afghanistan or Iraq but she's in the fight, every day."

Harrell is pushing these hard workers to leave their jobs behind the fences and reconnect with themselves. 

"The feeling that you get being out here with the horses is rejuvenation," Harrell said.

For nearly two months, Hutt is one of the millions, demonstrating strength, but not acknowledging the pain.

"I just remembered to breathe all of a sudden for the first time in months," Hutt said. "So while on the inside I might be having some anxieties and not real sure what's going on and have my own worries and my own struggles, I can't show that."

In just one hour, Hutt was consumed by the sounds, the stomps of the hooves, and the smells. She says these horses have refreshed her for a better tomorrow.

“If we’re going to be our best selves, if we’re going to be the people that are needed as frontline workers, than we need to make sure we really are taking care of ourselves," Hutt said.

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