Horse Tales

Highlights from The Equus Effect’s Fifth Anniversary Event

Everyone who joined us at our live event discovered just how long it takes to really come home from military conflict. The attention and support from guests was palpable and allowed our veteran graduates to speak with candor and sincerity about the personal costs of war for them … and the role we have played in their journeys. We cannot tell you how grateful they, and we, are for your support. Read their stories below.

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Zacchea

Mike Zacchea with Equus Effect horse
From the Outside In


After deploying to Somalia and Haiti, Mike was charged with training the first battalion of Iraqi soldiers whom he led through the second battle at Fallujah in 2004. His journey home from his successful, and extremely dangerous, career as a Marine was fourfold:

Physical: “I had 12 surgeries. That was the easiest.”

Mental: “Talking to a VA therapist gave me the mental clarity to write the narrative that became my memoir, The Ragged Edge, and to found the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans at UCONN.

Emotional: “Having my son put me back in touch with emotions other than anger and upset about my experiences.”

Spiritual: “I had no idea how spiritually shattered I was until I came here. I was moving forward on a lot of levels, but this piece was keeping me separate from my core. Learning how to engage with these horses, who are so connected to the earth and nature, enabled me to access a part of myself that was still in Iraq … after 14 years.”

Lt. Col. Zacchea with his son at The Equus Effect

Sgt. (ret.) Jocelyn Lillis

The Value of Emotional Agility



Jocelyn knew she had emotions, but judged herself every time anger, sadness or grief would come up. Her life had become a shadow of what it had been in the service where she felt useful, competent and confident. “I had done lots of programs for veterans after I retired, but my self-esteem kept dropping and I was was just getting more depressed and anxious.” Then, I came here, having no idea what I needed to learn about myself. I realized that learning to manage these horses over the course of the five weeks and then finding out that they won’t trust you unless you’re emotionally honest, I realized that expressing my real feelings actually made me feel more rather than less confident. Now, I’ve taken a job that is way beyond what I thought I could do because there is more of me now than ever before. I’m great … and moving forward in a way I never thought possible.”


Sgt. Major John Ploskonka told us that his 30-year career in the Marines resulted in a loss of connection to his emotions. “The ‘military bearing’ required to hold myself and others ‘together’ through combat and Arlington cost me any connection I ever had to my own emotions. It wasn’t until I was asked to stay present with Madrid, for what seemed like an eternity, that I was able to access my own vulnerability. For the first time ever, I cried for myself. Now, I listen instead of analyzing problems. I can actually be with the vets I see at the Semper Fi Fund. This is a huge change for me … and for them.”

Sgt. Maj. (ret.) John Ploskonka

The Cost of Military Bearing (John Plodkonka pic) 

Join us September 7, 2019 for our next annual event, “The Equus Effect In Action”
Join us for this year’s annual event and be part of The Equus Effect’s most important journey: to help veterans enjoy the physical, mental and emotional freedom they were willing to give their lives to protect.

Thank you to our supporters for helping us broaden our reach to other parts of the country. Veterans deserve to have better tools for self-expression and creative ways to ‘tell their stories.’

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The Equus Effect is a registered 501(C)(3) corporation. All contributions are 100% tax deductible.

The Equus Effect
37 Drum Road, Sharon, CT 06069
Main Office  (860) 364-5363
Jane Strong  (860) 364-9985
​​David Sonatore  (347) 439-1777
Jesi Sarno  (413) 446-5698
Kelly Hitt  (203) 613-1107

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