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Horse therapy leads Navy veteran shot twice in the head from darkness to greener pastures

A Navy man at 17, Emerson Beach’s military service ended when he was shot in the head twice. The traumatic brain injury led to epileptic seizures. His career, his life, his path hit a dead end. That was until a program called Horses for Hero’s caught Beach's attention. The program is run by Rein and Shine, an equine therapy facility. (Dan Michener/WCIV)

There’s something to be said for making a connection. The right person at the right time, maybe an old friend or a new one.

But, then again, it doesn’t have to be a person at all. This months Jefferson Award winner said, 'Yea," when he could have easily said, "Neigh!"

With the help of a Lowcountry non-profit, Emerson Beach has found his purpose.

Come rain or shine, Beach makes a life-saving drive twice a week. He has pulled up his boot straps and found peace in a most unlikely place.

For the past seven years, Emerson’s mornings were dark and gloomy, rarely leaving his home.

“I didn't talk to anyone, I didn't go out to eat, didn't go to grocery store, “ said Beach

A Navy man at 17, Beach’s military service ended when he was shot in the head. Twice.

The traumatic brain injury led to epileptic seizures.

“Crazy as it sounds, the Navy doesn't let people run nuclear submarines who have epilepsy,” said Beach.

Beach went on to earn a degree from The Citadel. He spent 20 years as an electrical engineer, but his epilepsy worsened. Brain surgery soon followed.

“They took out part of my brain. I shouldn't use the words, but I got dumbed down," said Beach.

His career, his life, his path hit a dead end.

"I lost the ability to do a lot of things. I couldn't talk or walk for a while until I relearned it. It was a tough thing. My personality changed. I was a very outgoing person and I became an inside person who wouldn't do anything," said Beach.

That was until a program called Horses for Hero’s caught Beach's attention. The program is run by Rein and Shine, an equine therapy facility.

In the blink of an eye, everything changed for Beach.

"I thought I was barely a husband, barely a man, and getting that feeling from the horses made me grow inside. They showed me how to love him, pet him, how to take care of him, and did it in a way where it wasn’t hey stupid do this, hey stupid do that. It was a way of interfacing with someone who thought he was stupid," said Beach.

Self doubt was replaced with trust. The therapeutic relationship between a horse led Beach to a new understanding.

“I’m different than I was before, but I’m not an irregular person, just a different person. That made my wife cry,” said Beach.

When he’s not riding, he’s volunteering twice a week. It is all part of his new normal.

“I see it as myself growing as a person. I’ll never never be an electrical engineer again but I’m going to be someone who helps someone else ride a horse, show people how to pick up poop and clean the place up, put equipment where it goes. That to me is one big thing, makes me into a real person. Before when I was an electrical engineer I wasn't a real person,” said Beach.

Emerson Beach has found that the grass is actually greener on the other side of the pasture and with the help of Rein and Shine, he has found his giddy-up.

You can help Rein and Shine as well. The program is in the running to win a therapy horse. CLICK HERE to vote for Rein and Shine (must have a Facebook account). The top 20 vote-getters will win a Gypsy Horse.

“Our herd is getting older. In order to provide service for grown men in the heavier range we need bigger stockier healthier horses. This horse is trained for therapeutic help. It would be a blessing for the whole program not just veterans but our therapeutic students and horsemen,” said Catherine Tallman, Executive Director for Rein and Shine.

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