Cpl. Matthew Gervais spent four years in the United States Marine Corps. He pulled two tours of duty in Afghanistan working on a security team with his battalion.
He doesn't talk much about what he experienced overseas, but whatever it was left an impression - and left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"To come back and to act normal, it's not easy. I was in denial. Honestly I didn't believe I had PTSD," Gervais said.
The transition back to civilian life was a tough one. Gervais told CBS 5 News he tried a lot of different things. Then in November, he learned about the Horse Rhythm Foundation, a non-profit group that offers specialized services for veterans, first responders and their families using equine therapy.
"I really didn't think it was going to help me at all, and then after the first session I was hooked," Gervais said.
Danny Schrader is a former police officer and an Iraq war veteran. He's been working with Horse Rhythm for three years and has seen firsthand what horse therapy can do.
"I have one personal experience with a veteran who told me this is the only reason he hasn't killed himself," Schrader said.
For many physically disabled vets and first responders, riding allows them to regain a sense of freedom.
"The horse is the only animal that you can put an amputee on that will actually give them the sensation of having their legs back and walking again," Schrader said.
The program that helps so many could be in its final months. The organization's lease is up Sept. 5 and the ranch will close.
For Gervais losing his four-legged therapist would put an obstacle in his road to recovery.
"I probably wouldn't be in the position I am today or have such high hopes for things," Gervais said.
The organization needs to raise $2.6 million. The goal is to buy a ranch where they can also build a 10-bedroom transitional housing facility that couples equine and clinical therapy.
Wednesday, July 30 2014 4:29 PM EDT2014-07-30 20:29:38 GMT
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