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Message from the Founders

From Executive Director

March 5, 2020

Here is a copy of a letter from our Co-founder and CEO sent to the women who have been selected to participate in our first ever Women Veterans Equine Assisted PTSD Therapy Retreat March 13-15, 2020.


As a Vietnam combat veteran, I, along with my wife, have traveled the sometimes scary, frustrating and often even dangerous journey of living life while coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We founded HHHvets hoping that we could, with the support of professionals and concerned volunteers, offer assistance to other veterans who are struggling.

Because of the nature of the upcoming Women Veterans’ Retreat, this will be the first time I have not been physically present to participate in all activities of the class. I will, however, be on hand to greet and welcome you Friday afternoon and evening. After that it will be ladies only. ​


As will the residential camp staff, I will be available to our Clinical Director and staff for any logistical support they may require. And, I will be there Sunday afternoon to get your feedback, tell you thank you and wish you God Speed on your trip home.

Recognizing that not all military PTSD is combat related, our board and staff have long wanted to create a special WOMEN VETERANS ONLY program to provide Equine Assisted Therapy to serve women’s unique needs. I want to personally thank you for agreeing to participate in this, our pilot retreat for Women Veterans. While we expect to learn much about how to fine tune this new program, we are confident that you will leave Camp Cedar Crest that Sunday afternoon with new hope, renewed strength, and the knowledge that there are people who really do care about you. Hearing “Thank you for your service” is great, but it is not nearly enough. Women who encountered severely stressful events during their service to our country have earned our support and encouragement. The staff and all volunteers at Heroes and Horses Healing want you to experience an intensely positive, focused weekend at the Women’s Retreat. But beyond one weekend, we want you to take away new tools to help you enjoy the full and abundant life that you deserve. We hope to offer follow up events for this first group of women in the future. We hope your experience will lead you to want to stay involved with HHHvets in the future, and to share information about HHHvets’ free services with other veterans, particularly your sister veterans who might need a helping hand. And, please feel free to contact me directly with any thoughts, suggestions or questions you might have about our program.

I personally pledge to you that we will always make sure our volunteers and Staff are vetted and fully trained to protect you, and to respect and guard your confidentiality, so you can fully engage and enjoy the HHHvets experience with complete peace of mind.

Thank you for letting us be a Partner on the Journey with you.

Joe Cottingham

Executive Director

Heroes and Horses Healing, Inc.


From Co-founder, CEO/Executive Director

November 26, 2019

Our first ever FALL FAMILY RETREAT this past weekend was a Huge Success! Several soldiers who have just returned from a long deployment in two different war zones, Iraq and Syria, were our guests, along with their wives and some of their children. Eighteen hard working volunteers showed up to share Friday, Saturday and Sunday activities with our guests at beautiful 500-acre Camp Cedar Crest in Lyles, TN. Camp Director Russell Casteel’s fantastic staff fed us all some wonderful, home cooked meals, and planned and led family activities. Nature hikes and ropes courses were just some of the highlights for the youngsters. Family time together in the lodges and in the woods, and equine assisted Re-acquaintance Activities for the parents helped these Husband and Wife heroes develop a better understanding of what each dealt with during this stressful time of deployment and separation, and work on improving communication between themselves, and with their offspring.    


We also had professionally directed group sessions where the husbands and wives were able to talk openly about their fears, frustrations, joys and sadnesses during the deployment time.To me, the entire 3 months of planning for this event were made worthwhile by just one comment I overheard— a husband saying to his wife after one session: "I never had thought about that being something you were dealing with. We need to talk more about that." 

I saw several small miracles as couples and individuals shared their feelings this weekend, and I know there will be many benefits, some we will never get to see, for these people. 

As always, this weekend, including meals, lodging, instructional time and guided activities, were provided COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE TO THE SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES, thanks to contributions to our 501(c)(3) charity.

Joe Cottingham

Executive Director

From Co-founder

October 23, 2019

From the beginning our mission at Heroes and Horses Healing has been to offer assistance, first through equine-assisted psychotherapy, to veterans coping with the often devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, always at absolutely no cost to the veteran. We have always known that PTSD is a family issue, not always lived and experienced by the veteran alone. Our Board of Directors has made the decision, after much study, to expand our services beyond only offering therapy classes to a few individual veterans at a time. Our research and observations have led us to understand that dealing directly with the trauma of war shortly after the soldier’s return is the front line of PTSD prevention and mitigation. 


With that in mind we have established a relationship with commanding chaplains and counselors with the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Ky, located about 40 miles from Nashville.  With their input we are developing a pilot program to offer Rescued Horse ground work therapy to soldiers who have very recently returned from war zones, and their families.


Our first therapy event will be November 22-24, 2019, at Cedar Crest Camp in Lyles, TN. (Please watch for a future posting about our partnership with Camp Cedar Crest.)  We will offer two and a half days of recreation for the entire family of each soldier participating, along with intense equine assisted therapy for the soldiers and their spouses. Cedar Crest’s professional counselors will assist by providing great camp activities for the youngsters, tailored to the specific ages of those who come. 


We will have outdoor and indoor activities, including hiking and high-ropes course challenges. The soldiers and spouses will have time to spend alone, walking in the woods or by the lake, or just sitting on the spacious back porches of the cabins, knowing their children are well attended by trained, fully vetted professionals and volunteers. There will be family meals and cookouts, a bonfire with musical entertainment, and time to just unwind and enjoy being together again! 

Claudia and I want to make sure that veterans and their families never experience what so many of us did after the Vietnam War.  My platoon-mate Steve, having been shot on Christmas Eve, returned to the states to spend over a year in an army hospital, and still suffers from severe pain and other effects of this event. But he also has emotional scars, remembering when he was taken off a hospital plane in California with other severely wounded soldiers, to be greeted by signs at the airport from protesters saying “I hope you die!”. Thank God people screaming “baby killer!” at us have been replaced today by people sincerely saying “Thank you for your service”, and breaking out into patriotic songs at airports.  But the returning soldiers and their families need more than this, and HHHvets, with your help, intends to offer the positive, affirming embrace these families deserve.

Assuming the corporate and individual donations and sponsorships continue to grow, we will work with the mental health and family counselors at Ft. Campbell to expand this program to include follow up events for each group, as well as weekends for spouses and families of troops who are currently deployed. 


All of this won’t be inexpensive, but we have faith that our continued stewardship of donations (our only paid employees are a part-time Operations Director who assists me with administrative and follow up work, and our part-time Clinical Director, to whom we are finally able to start paying a little money for her time away from her private practice, after so many, many volunteered hours to get us going.) will encourage our good supporters to double down on their support for HHHvets.

Thanks for being "A Partner on the Journey"

Joe Cottingham


From Co-founders

January 14, 2018

Our next class begins February 12th! Five veterans coping with PTSD, each teamed with a specially trained rescued horse, will work under the guidance of our experienced certified therapist, assisted by volunteers who have dedicated many hours of classroom and hands-on work to offer a safe, effective therapy program to make life better for these veterans,and often for their families. Our client veterans in this class cover the spectrum - from service in Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And, this will be our first class to include a female veteran!

We have already started our waiting list for the next class. CAN YOU HELP WITH A CONTRIBUTION TODAY as more and more veterans are asking to participate? The best way is to donate through our Web site at 
or to mail a check to: 


Heroes and Horses Healing, Inc. 
P.O. Box 210201
Nashville, TN 37221


We are a 501(c)(3) public charity. Not having attempted to read the new tax bill - or even any of the old ones - we can only advise you to check with your accountant as to how the timing of your contribution might affect your own tax situation. We can only assure you that it will positively impact the lives of some veterans who want to do what it takes to make their lives better, and will continue to be a positive factor in the lives of these beautiful rescued horses. And for that, the timing is perfect!

Thanks for being "A Partner on the Journey"

Joe and Claudia Cottingham, Co-Founders

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