In July 2010, I resigned from a 14-year career as a police officer. It wasn’t easy. I had excelled in my academy training, loved the challenges and the camaraderie of the work, and thrived on the opportunity to make a difference in my community.

But slowly my passion for policing diminished. After experiencing years of bullying and harassment from certain colleagues, the daily risks and continued stress involved with police work took its toll. I requested medical leave. When the department failed to address my concerns—to take my complaints of abuse seriously—I felt I had no option but to leave permanently. I needed to find a safe place to feel worthy, seen and understood. My search for healing led me back to horses.

With a long history of being a horse owner and rider, my plan unfolded. I moved my gelding, Shady, and mares, May and Babs, to my newly purchased farm, Anam Cara Farm and Learning Center. From there I started planning a career in helping others make healthy lifestyle choices through the support of Equine Facilitated Wellness.

Since resigning from the VPD, I have learned much about myself. Through listening to the stories of others and researching the causes and effects of PTSD, I discovered that what happened to me is common among First Responders. Although the reasons and experiences are varied, I now see how the accumulation of stress—whether through colleagues, the organization itself, or the actual job—is slow and insidious. I see how it invades one’s personal life, physical health and self-esteem.

But these years of healing also taught me that things can be different. I now know that healthy support can be incorporated into community service and that healing is about working together and not about toughing it out.

The result is Standing Six, an equine wellness program of hope, healing and respect.