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Military Spotlight: Dionne Williamson

Dionne Williamson has been proudly serving her country for 26 years now.

As a member of the United States Navy, Dionne knows first-hand the responsibility of putting someone else’s needs before your own.

“Being active-duty military with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), you bury thoughts and emotions because you sometimes don’t have time to deal with those emotions. There is a job you need to get done and people’s lives are counting on you,” said Dionne.

The need to find balance in everyday life as well as a recommendation from her behavioral health therapist led Dionne to NVTRP in the Fall of 2019.

“There is such a different connection with the horses. When I’m having a bad day around people, I can usually throw on a fake face and play it off. But dealing with animals, and especially horses, they just have that sense and they can just feel that I’m not having a good day,” she explained.

Her first interaction with the horses was very eye opening, “When I first started working with Charles, I was nervous. I thought I was putting on a great facade but he took three steps away from me so I knew, ‘OK, this is not working.’”

Dionne now takes part in both the therapeutic riding and equine-assisted learning programs offered at NVTRP.

“The mounted sessions are extremely physical which I didn’t realize. I thought the horse was going to be more tired than me but some days I feel like I need an oxygen mask,” she said, with a laugh. “Once I got used to it, I feel like I’ve given my body a lift. I have this energy that I never had before.”

But it was the equine-assisted learning sessions that surprised her the most.

“With the groundwork piece, I didn’t really know what to expect. But the way sessions incorporate the issues I have with anxiety, depression and being around new people... it really shows me the vibe I am giving off. I think I’m saying, ‘Hi, it’s nice to meet you’ and then the horse doesn’t want to come next to me. I recognize that I really need to work on what’s inside,” Dionne said.

Even in her short time at NVTRP, Dionne is excited by the progress she has made and the changes she noted have been immediate.

“It has definitely helped me. I had been told that people don’t even want to come talk to me and are afraid of me,” she recalled. “Making that connection and having a relationship with a horse means a lot because if I am able to bond with an animal without saying anything, imagine the vibes I can give to someone by being more open. Recently, I had people come up and tell me I’m more inviting. It feels good!”

She added, “Saying hi to someone with a smile is so much better than walking by and doing a head nod and faking it. Now I am a happier person because I am noticing that inside. I’m taking time to enjoy myself and other people are feeling that too.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the other struggles plaguing our society right now, Dionne reflected on how much this experience and her time at NVTRP really means to her.

“This has been a different experience where you are not judged by what you have on or what you look like but by what’s inside you and in a way that helps you. The horses are just there saying, ‘I’m here for you’ and that is so special to me.”

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