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Featured Alumni Business: Wild Hearts Horses For Heroes

Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes

What is your name and the name of your business?

Julie Lovely M’07, Executive Director, Wild Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Program, Inc., and Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes

What’s the mission or description of your business?

The mission of Wild Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Program is to transform the lives of our participants, their families and all who work with us through the healing power of horsemanship. Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes, our primary program created specifically to help military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or Military Sexual Trauma (MST), has a very specific mission – to save lives. 22 veterans take their own lives every single day – Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes is determined to change that statistic to zero.

Where is your business located?

We run from my horse farm in West Bridgewater, MA.

What inspired your business?

I have personal experience with PTSD and TBI – my college apartment burned down just before graduation in 1999 and I found myself dealing with PTSD. Less than a year later, my father suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury in a car accident. I focused much of my Babson MBA on our family business – but PTSD and TBI complicated matters so much that we decided to end the business. Since ending the family business, horses have played such an important role in my own healing, that I knew I needed to start a program that could help other people find healing through horses too.

How did the idea begin?

Much of my childhood was spent volunteering for a therapeutic riding program. I look back so fondly on my experiences there that I founded Wild Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Program in 2009. Though we originally only offered therapeutic riding, due to my experience with PTSD and TBI, it was my intention to create unmounted programs that specifically addressed mental health such as equine facilitated psychotherapy and programming for military veterans. But, it wasn’t until I met Jen Jeffrey-Goddard ’94  (a Natural Horsemanship Trainer) and Nicole Long (a social worker with horse experience) that the pieces fell together and we were able to collaborate to offer equine facilitated psychotherapy and create Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes.

What is your favorite thing about the business?

My favorite thing about Wild Hearts is watching our participants make a connection and build a partnership with our horses. Not only do I get to work with horses, but I also get to meet and work with the most fantastic people.

And the worst/your least favorite?

Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes offers all programming free of charge, and as a non-profit, we rely on fundraising. Though I truly I love spreading the word about Wild Hearts and meeting wonderful people who support us, my favorite part of the job is working directly with our horses and participants. I wouldn’t say fundraising is my least favorite part of the business – but, I do try to strike a balance to make sure I get enough time in the barn working directly in our programming.

What is your most recent business accomplishment?

After over a year of planning, our 10-week pilot program for military veterans called “Healing through Horsemanship” will wrap up on July 11th. It’s been absolutely amazing to watch our participants build horsemanship skills, gain confidence, and make connections to their everyday life, relationships, and coping skills.

What’s been your biggest surprise with the business?

Though I’ve always planned to focus on mental health services, it surprised me how many people sought out Wild Hearts to address mental health even before we offered those types of services. Most didn’t necessarily want to ride – they wanted to volunteer just to be around the horses. Working with horses to address mental health is a fairly new concept, and I knew we were on the right path.

Anything else to add?

We have big dreams for Wild Hearts!

  • In the future we plan to expand Wild Hearts Horses for Heroes to include first responders as well as create programs for couples and families.
  • We also plan to create a program where participants are directly involved with the rehabilitation of rescue horses.

Though PTSD and TBI are what brought me here – I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with amazing people like Jen Jeffrey Goddard and Nicole Long to make a real difference in the lives of people and horses.