Using a cutting-edge, sensory based therapy, a new veteran’s ranch near Aberdeen is working to stop the 22 a day.
On a ranch just south of Aberdeen lives Max, an 18-year-old medicine hat paint horse who is quick to say hello. But don’t be fooled, this is no ordinary ranch and definitely no ordinary horse. Max is one of the few horses in the whole world trained in the Draper Sensory Method, a therapy treatment that uses movement and the brain-body connection to heal mental illness and neurological disorders. The method is highly specialized, and so is the ranch where Max works. It is a veteran’s ranch, and the cornerstone of Chris Reder’s DTOM 22/0 Foundation.
Reder started DTOM 22/0 after an accident caused him to be medically discharged from his job as a cryptologic technician for the U.S. Navy. He says the years following the accident were difficult, and that he found healing for himself by volunteering with other organizations that served his fellow veterans. Doing this volunteer work also gave him the inspiration to take it one step further and start his own nonprofit, and in March 2017, the DTOM 22/0 Foundation was born.
DTOM stands for “Dont Tread On Me”—a nod to the first U.S. Navy Jack. On average, every day in the U.S. 22 veterans take their own life. The 22/0 signifies Reder’s goal of changing that number from 22 a day to zero. Opening the veteran’s ranch is phase one of his nonprofit. This summer, after going through Draper Sensory Method treatment himself and seeing the difference it made in the recovery from his own brain injury, Reder completed training with Max at the Horseback Miracles Ranch in Colorado. He is now one of only six practitioners in the country who are certified in helping others using this method. In it, riders sit on Max backward with their eyes closed, while Reder leads them around an outdoor arena. The horse’s movements create frequencies that travel up the spine of the rider and into the brain. These frequencies can neutralize stress and chemical imbalances in the brain, reset neurons, and ultimately repair the vestibular part of the brain. The goal is not to just have short-term relief while riding Max, but long-term results for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and chemical dependency. Most participants come in twice a week for a total of about 10 to 15 visits. Reder says the treatments are completely free for any veteran, and that he works with Northeastern Mental Health Center and local veteran’s groups to get referrals for those who could benefit from the method.
As the foundation grows, Reder hopes it will someday include a lodge for up to 32 veterans to live and/or work at the ranch as they reacclimate to civilian life. Providing this around-the-clock support system is another way to stop the 22 a day. Reder explains the mission behind his nonprofit, “When we join the military, we take an oath to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and to not leave anyone behind. We’re trying to honor that oath and reduce these suicides. We are so fortunate to live in such a wonderful country because of our men and women in uniform. When they come back broken, we can’t turn our backs on them, we have to take care of them. It’s our duty.” // –Jenny Roth
For more information on the DTOM 22/0 Foundation, find them on Facebook or visit www.DTOM220.org.