As Loren Carrell rode a horse around the arena at Double H Ranch for the first time without assistance, his wife, Nicole, marveled at his progress.
"It's wonderful to see him get out there on a horse," she said. "He's doing so much better with this therapy. When he is on a horse, he is a lot calmer. He loves doing this.
"He isolates himself most of the time," she added. "With this program, he is interacting with people and horses. It helps him so much."
The former Army specialist was the victim of both an improvised explosive device and mortar attacks early in summer 2007, she said.
"The IED shifted his brain a little bit," she said. "His brain injury was the worst. He had brain fluid coming out of his ears. He lost hearing in his right ear and partial hearing in the other. But when he came back the military doctors said there was nothing wrong with him."
She and Liz McFarland, Carrell's mother, took him to a civilian doctor who took issue with the military doctors' diagnosis, she said, adding that the Department of Veterans Affairs also has provided a lot of help.
"This therapy helps him remember things," she said. "He has a caregiver at home who helps him take showers, reminds him to use soap, things like that. He forgets things really easy. It's a real slow process."
Before he was wounded, he was much more outgoing, she said. "He loved being around people," she said. "But the PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) has changed all that. The depression and everything has been real hard on him."
Her husband looks forward to being with the horses each week, she said as trainers helped him dismount.
"It's absolutely amazing how it is helping him," said McFarland in a telephone interview from Keno. "He wasn't raised around horses but the horse and Loren have bonded."
The oldest of her four children, Carrell was an active young man interested in both forestry and the culinary arts before he was wounded, she said.
"Loren was very suicidal after he was hurt," she said. "He is no longer speaking that way. He was very depressed. He isn't as depressed now. I see this program as something huge for all the brain-injured soldiers.
"After all the gloom and hardships we've gone through, it's exciting to have hope again," his mother said.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Veterans' wife says riding horses 'helps him so much'