November 10, 2021

Rucks To Reins Pairs Veterans, Horses For Therapeutic Outcomes

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (November 10, 2021) – The Franklin County Commissioners, along with the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs, are pleased to announce a new equine therapy program designed to help area veterans with service-connected disabilities lead happier, healthier, more productive lives.


Known as Operation Rucks to Reins, the program provides a form of equine-assisted therapy that incorporates horses and horse care into a veteran’s therapy regimen. Rucks to Reins utilizes the expertise of Franklin County’s Penn State Extension staff to offer participants a three-component program that includes ground lessons, therapeutic riding and therapeutic driving and lets veterans develop a number of physical and relational skills in a non-threatening and motivational environment.


Equine-assisted therapy has known benefits for a wide range of disabilities. Benefits can include improved psychosocial adjustment, improved balance and coordination, increased muscle strength, a decrease in anxiety and depression, enhanced memory and comprehension, increased utilization of positive coping skills, and improved cardiovascular function.  Veterans with physical, mental and emotional disabilities often find that a horse’s three-dimensional motion facilitates balance, flexibility, muscle control and strength. Those with physical and emotional challenges are able to form a special bond with the horses. 


“Operation Rucks to Reins will increase hope and success to our veterans,” said Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs Director Justin Slep. “Through this program, we can use animal husbandry to create a pathway for a positive future and give veterans a new way of looking at life.”


Each eight-week session of Operation Rucks to Reins is open to five Franklin County veterans, guard members or reservists with a physical, mental or emotional disability. Participants must provide a medical clearance signed by a physician.


“Veterans form a real, sincere bond with these horses that is hard to explain,” said Slep. “The horses don’t judge anyone, and veterans don’t have to pretend to be someone else or that everything is OK. The horses truly accept individuals for who they are, which helps reassure veterans that they are not alone.”


There is no out-of-pocket cost for veterans to participate in this program. Operation Rucks to Reins, along with all other programs offered through the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs, is funded by community donations.


“We can never say ‘thank you’ enough to our veterans for their service,” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dave Keller. “Establishing this program is just another way for us to say thanks.”


For more information on Operation Rucks to Reins or other services, contact the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs at 717-263-4326 or visit

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