POSITIVELY VIRGINIA: Horse, veteran bond through rehabilitation at Buchanan’s New Freedom Farm

Roanoke Valley News

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — A very special bond was sealed in Botetourt County on Saturday after a tough journey for both a veteran and a feral horse.

U.S. Army veteran Clint Cash has been visiting New Freedom Farm in Buchanan for more than three years after struggling with bouncing back to normal life after serving in Afghanistan.

His close friend Grady Bendel, who served with him, noticed dramatic changes in Cash’s mental health following their return.

“When we first got out, it was hard. We didn’t really communicate with people. We isolate, stay to our own type of thing, and that’s just the common thing that I’ve seen with Cash,” said Bendel.

But on Memorial Day last year, a feral horse named Cole arrived at New Freedom Farm. Cash took interest in him quickly and felt a connection.

“He didn’t go to many other people, so it gave me something to try harder for, try to get him to come to me,” said Cash.

Cole had also been through a very challenging situation. He was rescued from a cock-fighting ring and had some of the same struggles that Cash did — fear of being around people and a hard time accepting love.

“When he started coming to me and paying attention to me, and I started getting close to him it made me feel better about myself,” added Cash.

As time went on, Cole and Cash worked together in rehabilitation. The two showed significant improvement within months. They felt more open to being around people and less isolated.

Cash says he liked to talk to Cole which allowed him to get things off of his chest. He says Cole seemed to be listening and though he couldn’t talk, he understood Cash’s feelings.

When Cole was back to being healthy and stable again, it became time to find him a new home. The staff at New Freedom Farm knew the perfect place — right there with his buddy Cash. The staff says a sponsor stepped in and provided the farm with the funds needed to keep the horse near Cash.

According to Cash, “I’m really excited that he’s going to get to stay here, and he’s mine.”

The New Freedom Farm staff encourages all veterans dealing with mental health challenges to seek help, whether through a nonprofit like theirs or just someone with whom to talk.

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