Shamrock Reins…A Healing Place for Veterans

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Interview:
Janet L. Brennan, Founder & Executive Director

Interview and Photos
By Katharine Gilbert

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Front gate of facility

1. How did you decide to establish a center of caring for veterans.

I truly feel this is a calling. From that very moment I bought my first horse in 1997, I knew I wanted to have an equine therapy center. Being the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and retired Philadelphia fireman and the niece of uncles who were police officers, I have a deep respect and appreciation for our Service members.

Through my business travels all over the world, I recognized that, more often than not, Americans do not realize how lucky we are and that our freedom is preserved by our Service members who have been protecting us. These men and women and their families have made significant sacrifices and I feel strongly that it is our responsibility to give back and serve them.

Equine assisted activities and therapies offers adjunctive therapy that enhances other treatments our Service members are receiving. Horses have amazing healing powers. They mirror our emotions. Simply stated, if you are anxious, a horse will be anxious. When you calm yourself, the horse calms, so the horse is teaching our Service members about their emotions and unhealthy behaviors and is helping them adjust and build coping skills that they can use in daily life.

For example, when one of our Service members is in a challenging situation away from Shamrock Reins, they think about what they did with their horse and they are able to change their behavior. These coping skills continue to build each week.

Horses are nonjudgmental, non-confrontational, they have no expectations, and they are very forgiving. The horses know exactly what our veterans and Service members need and their amazing powers help them heal. Equine therapy provides cognitive, emotional, physical, and social benefits. All of our services are provided at no cost to our Service members and their families.

2. Did you or someone close to you serve in the military?

My Father is a Vietnam veteran as was his brother.
I have several other uncles and cousins who served and many friends.

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Dublin, one of the horses Brennan has bred.

3. How and where did you find your horses and did you start riding at a young age?

I actually did not grow up around horses and never had riding lessons. I had an opportunity to buy my first horse in 1997 and I starting breeding. We have 13 horses; the horses that I bred have Irish names. We have Irish, Dublin, Shamrock, Donegal, Paddy, Clancy, Bullet, Emerald, Windy, Lynda, Ebony, Tika, and Gus.

Irish is the matriarch of the herd, she is the mother of Dublin and Shamrock. Irish and Bullet are the parents of Clancy.  Lynda and Bullet are the parents of Donegal. Windy and Shamrock are the parents of Paddy (who was born on St. Patrick’s Day).  Lynda is the mother of Emerald.

A large majority of our programs do not involve riding. Most activities are challenging ground activities with the horse that do not involve riding. We have therapeutic horsemanship programs that do involve riding, but the primary focus is on building the human/horse bond and relationship.

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Gus, the plough horse.

4.  There is a sense of peace and serenity at Shamrock Reins. To what do you attribute the calm one feels when there?

Shamrock Reins is a safe, calm, peaceful, non-threatening, non-confrontational place to heal.  The serenity is felt as you drive down the tree-lined driveway and look across the pastures and watch horses calmly grazing.  We have a created a positive, stress-free, welcoming atmosphere.  The property is meticulously maintained, so the surroundings are aesthetically pleasing.

We take care in making homemade food that we serve after sessions to enhance the welcoming atmosphere, but it is not just about what you see with your eyes is it about how you feel and how you are treated.

Our amazing staff and volunteers are truly committed to the work we do, they have a passion to want to help our veterans, Service members, and their families.  Our hearts and souls are present from the moment we say hello and welcome.

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Road leading up to the horse barn.

5. Shamrock Reins is participating in the Philadelphia Veterans Day Parade. How did that happen?

Shamrock Reins participates in numerous outreach events throughout the year to increase our visibility and raise awareness of the services we offer. As a result of the many events we attend we were invited to apply for participation in the first Philadelphia Veterans Day Parade last year and we were honored to participate.  Due to our participation last year we received email notification of this year’s parade.  We are honored and excited to participate again this year.