Back in the Saddle Warriors®

Equine Therapeutic Riding

Back in the Saddle Warriors® (BITS) is Heartbeat’s clinical and evidence based Equine Therapeutic Riding.

For Wounded Warriors to include Vietnam forward to Global War On Terror /OIF/ OEF who are either active duty or out of the military including any branch in WA state, a Level ll Centered Riding Instructor and PATH Instructors, Volunteers are also used as sidewalkers.


BITS Warriors Brochure for Wounded Warriors in WA State

BITS Video Gallery

Great outdoor video to the song of God Must be A Cowboy at Heart by Dan Seals


How Equine Therapeutic Riding Works

These evidence-based therapies improve muscle strength, psychological well-being, motor development, balance, and coordination. Therapy addresses many injuries including

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Speech injuries
  • Loss of limbs
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Cancer

Click here for a great informational flyer on Equine Therapeutic Riding

Pettibon Chair

PT, Cynthe Slaybaugh demonstrates the use of our diagnostic and warm up tool, the Pettibon chair before a Warrior is put on a horse. This is a very important tool that Cynthe loves to serve our BITS Warriors.

The Pettibon chair allows for gentle ROM (range of motion) of the vertebral joints and surrounding musculature/fascia in a weight-bearing manner and in a position quite similar to that which would be taken while astride a horse.  I find it to be unique in that way. Sitting on a physioball would not be the same – as the shape of the seating surface and back pressure of compressing the air alter the range and workload one could achieve.

The  Pettibon Chair serves as a tool and loosens up the spine and sacral joints so that when the person mounts the horse, we spend less time in warm up and can maximize the time and benefit of the equine movement. Also, the horse has a rhythmic triplanar gait that people have a hard time replicating for more than a minute or two, and, as good as the chair motion is, it is still hard to replicate all 3 planar motions simultaneously. The chair allows us to say just left side band 10 times of aim one is only right in that side, but in the horse you cannot take out a plane, you get all 3 at once.”

Cynthe Slaybaugh, MS, PT


Check out the following Ride Along Demonstration by The Shea Center

The J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, located in San Juan Capistrano CA, is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through therapeutic horse-related programs.


BITS Photo Gallery



Back in the Saddle FAQ

What is the difference between a wounded and injured service member?

The military defines these terms differently. If the soldier is hurt in an accident while here at home, it’s called an injury. If the soldier is hurt while in a battle or war, it’s called wounded. That is also the term if the soldier is in a car accident while overseas.

Does Heartbeat help both wounded and injured soldiers?

Most of our programs are for both wounded and injured.

Why do you help only the wounded? Don’t others need your help too?

All warriors and their families deserve our time and appreciation. Many organizations serve both wounded and non-wounded. We did at one time too. We realized that we could serve more wounded warriors if we focused completely on them.

How do the soldiers feel about the help Heartbeat provides?

Wounded warriors often send words of appreciation. They’re families are grateful too. Sometimes they write letters. Sometimes they tell us in person. They let us know the huge impact our programs have on their lives.

What is Back in the Saddle Warriors®?

Back in the Saddle Warriors is Heartbeat’s clinical and evidence based Equine Assisted Therapy which consists of Equine Therapeutic Riding.

For Wounded Warriors who were part of GWOT and include OIF/OEF who are either out of the Military including any branch  or still in but wounded in WA state, PATH Instructors, Volunteers are also used as sidewalkers.

These evidence-based therapies improve muscle strength, psychological well-being, motor development, balance, and coordination. Therapy addresses many injuries including

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Speech injuries
  • Loss of limbs
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

What is Equine Therapeutic Riding ?

Equine Therapeutic Riding is an equine-assisted therapy. The warrior sits on the horse and uses its movement as a physical therapy. This isn’t horseback riding as we usually think of it.

Licensed physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists provide this treatment. While the warrior sits on the horse, the therapist guides the animal and makes changes in its movements. The warrior’s health goals determine how and when these changes are made.

Equine Therapeutic Riding therapy team includes horse trainers certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH International).

How does Equine Therapeutic Riding work?

Horses and humans have something in common, a pelvis that works the same way. Both have identical hip movements when walking. While sitting on a moving horse, this allows a person’s body parts to move naturally. It strengthens muscle groups.

Even for someone without injuries, staying upright on a horse requires balance, coordination, and muscle strength. War injuries sometimes affect these abilities. Equine Therapeutic Riding may help wounded warriors make improvements not achieved with other treatments.

How does Equine Therapeutic Riding help emotionally?

Warriors are natural protectors. It’s their job to take charge and perform brave acts every day. Injuries sometimes make it impossible to contribute any longer. It dramatically changes the warrior’s role — in the family, in the job, and in society.

The relationship between human and horse is a special one. Horses, gentle and sensitive, have a unique ability to sense human emotions. This special bond helps warriors work through difficult issues.

Equine Therapeutic Riding helps wounded warriors find newfound strength. This success contributes to positive, lifelong changes. In turn, this affects family and society.

How does a wounded warrior qualify for help?

Almost anyone can make the first call to Heartbeat to get help — warrior, family member, or provider. After the warrior’s health care provider approves treatment, we can offer the service. The provider can be an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, or doctor.

Who qualifies to be in our Equine Therapeutic Riding program?

At this time we only serve Wounded or Injured from Vietnam forward to include GWOT which includes OIF and OEF in Washington State.

Who pays for Equine Therapeutic Riding?

As with all our programs and services, donations are the only source of support for Back in the Saddle Warriors. We offer services free to our heroes.

Our brave, wounded warriors sustained their injuries while they defended our freedom and way of life. They put their lives on the line for complete strangers. Heartbeat firmly believes all of us owe it to our heroes to help them heal.

Where do I go for therapy?

Please e-mail or call Heartbeat for information about locations.

How can I volunteer?

At this time, Scuba Warriors serves wounded GWOT Warriors in WA State.  IF you are a wounded warrior in another state, you are welcome to be in this program, BUT, unfortunately,  we do not have funds for travel and lodging.

Heartbeat received a seed grant from Infinite Hero Foundation to start a limited Scuba Warrior expansion to our courageous wounded Marines  in NC and Wounded Warrior Regiment East at Camp Lejeune. It IS the Vision of Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors® to take Scuba Warriors Nationally.

1.    IF you are a dive shop or Dive Instructor that would like to be involved in Scuba Warriors in your state please contact us.   IF you are a Dive Master or Dive Con certified and want to volunteer, please contact us.

2.   IF you are a wounded warrior in a moderate to heavy military populated state and would like to see Scuba Warriors there, please contact us. IF you are a Command that would like to see Scuba Warriors come to you for your wounded warriors, please contact us.

3.   Finally, even though our VISION is to take Scuba Warriors Nationally, we Can Not do this without YOUR HELP.

4.   Please consider making a single donation or monthly donation to allow us to make Scuba Warriors Outreach a viable reality! DONATE HERE.  Thank you for making a difference in the lives of these courageous Warriors that have given so much for our country!


Heartbeat Serving Wounded Warriors®: Let the Healing Begin...®