For veterans and service members returning to the states from active duty, the transition home can be the hardest part of serving.
The Rising Moon Ranch, located in Bear Valley Springs, offers a variety of unique tools to the brave servicemen and servicewomen dealing with Post Traumatic Stress, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma.
"What we do here is invite veterans and other service members to the ranch to work on coping skills and resilience training because, when you serve, it's hard not to come home and have Post Traumatic Stress," said Charisse Rudolph, owner of the Rising Moon Ranch and executive director and founder of Healing Horses & Armed Forces (HHAAF).
Rudolph is a certified equine specialist in mental health with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH). In addition, HHAAF is a premiere accredited site, with Path International who has partnered with Rudolph and The Wounded Warriors Project.
"They (veterans) serve their country with a dream, and when they come back to the states, often times they don't have that dream anymore," Rudolph said. "We help them find their way back to their dreams.
"It's not about riding horses. The course represents what challenges they have in life," she added. "Soldiers don't want talk therapy. They just need guidance to work things out."
According to Rudolph, her horses play a key role in helping participants find methods for becoming more resilient, and figuring out the necessary coping skills to use when life becomes stressful. Five out of her six horses who work their magic are rescue horses.
"Being resilient is find the ability to look at critical situations in a new way and finding creative approaches when problem solving," said Rudolph. "Staying calm and managing your emotion under pressure is key.
"Your personal resilience journey involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed. It is a reconditioned response. The same way a horse is trained, we can train ourselves to respond in a positive manner when conditions are not favorable."
Rudolph said HHAAF is designed to build resilience by offering equine assisted solutions as well as other nontraditional therapies.
"We believe in a body, mind, heart and soul approach."
"Because this war has gone on for so long, our services are needed more than ever. So many returning soldiers need extra help, and the Veteran's Administration can't possibly keep up. Luckily, I already had this vision," said Rudolph, who operates The Rising Moon Ranch alongside her husband, Vic Martin.
"We have had approximately 150 participants in the past two years," said Rudolph, adding that no veteran or service member pays for anything, including breakfast, lunch and snacks. To make this possible, she relies solely on the generous donations of others.
Rudolph says fundraising efforts consume a good part of her waking time on any given day.
"I wake up in the morning and the first this I do is grab my phone and turn it on, then I start working while I'm still in bed in my jammies. We are always looking for volunteers as well as sponsorships and grants," she added.
"The Bakersfield Californian Foundation recently gave us a generous grant, which has helped us tremendously," she said.
According to Rudolph, HHAAF is beginning to gain recognition and referrals from other key agencies.
"We are starting to work with Edward's Air Force Base," she said. "We got the 'okay' from the general and from the Division of Mental Health. We have been asked by the Los Angeles Veterans Administration to come to a leadership conference and participate by having an information table on our services available."
In addition to her therapeutic horses, The Rising Moon offers therapeutic cooking and art, military yoga, and a drumming circle, for which Rudolph is seeking donations of percussion instruments. Programs include Women Warriors Program, Couples in Transition, and Veterans Only.
"We are the frosting on the cake, but the cake is the Veteran's Administration," said Rudolph.
Donations can also be made via Paypal at HHAAF.org, or mailed to Healing Horses & Armed Forces, 27501 Cumberland Rd., Tehachapi, CA 93561.