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Nanci's Story

After serving in Afghanistan, Nanci returned home feeling out of place, lost, and fighting with friends and family. She greeted each day with explosive anger, helplessness, and hopelessness until she came to Saratoga WarHorse. 


Read her story in her own words.

"On August 1, 2012 I began my journey as an operating room nurse at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank in Afghanistan. By September, my eyes had seen enough trauma and death. My heart was ripped from my chest every day.


Add in multiple daily rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), bombs, bullets, alarms and little to no sleep for nine months. My body shut down, experiencing emotional deadness, fearing I would die before I got out of Shank, not knowing, I was already dead.


In May 2013, I returned home. I am out of place, I am lost, and fighting with my family and friends. I greeted each day with explosive anger, helplessness, hopelessness, spiritual death…suicide became my focus to stop the pain, permanently.

Divine Intervention

In January 2014, by divine intervention, I met my PTSD psychiatrist and began my psychotherapy. I have been in a plethora of therapies to help with my PTSD symptoms. I still struggle daily. All my symptoms are triggered by crowds (being here, getting here), work environment, loud noises and sometimes, I’m simply triggered from being overwhelmed with anxiety and forgetting to breathe.


In November 2018, Saratoga WarHorse (SWH) came into view. I do not remember how I found out about your program


I had been reeling from my first known blackout. In January 2019, I was on the plane for Aiken, SC.


I went to Aiken with out any expectations, consumed with fear, shame, anxiety and secretly hoping for relief.

Part of the conditions to attend SWH, requires each member to be present. No drugs. No alcohol. Nine months in Asscrackistan, being present every day, killed the person I was. The mother my children knew and loved, she was gone. Why be present???

Being present allowed me to see what was unfolding before my eyes. Being present allowed me to be safe.

When I was matched with BJ, I felt our connection. We were the same. We didn’t know trust. We didn’t know safety. In the pen, we only had each other. We worked together, spoke in silence and moved as a team.


Our final piece was meeting each other in the middle of the pen. BJ would not come to me. At that moment, I dropped to my knees, surrendered myself to him, and BJ moved to the center of the pen to accept my gift.

Dancing with
the Devil


When training was done, I Iearned my horse’s real name was Diablo. The devil. To dance with the devil was what I’ve done my whole life. To dance with this specific devil, you need to understand the significance of the name Diablo.

We used call names to protect our families back home. Mine was ‘Mama’. ‘Diablo’ was given to our Executive Officer. Our Diablo created undue stress, additional and unnecessary harm to our team. Eventually Diablo was relieved from duty.


Diablo was a trigger for me. If I’d known BJ’s real name was Diablo, it would have changed my experience. Instead, Diablo freed me. MY Diablo allowed me to move past a small piece of my trauma.

I gained confidence. I believed in myself and better understood what it looks like to push people away. If you can push people away, you remain safe.

Trust and vulnerability are truly beautiful when given the space to flourish.

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