Mike Maas is hard to miss. Between his demanding presence measuring well over six-feet tall, and his booming South African accent, everyone, including the horses, take notice when Mike is in the barn. Mike is an adrenaline addict – rugby, breaking in horses, hang-gliding, broco riding, you name it, Mike’s done it. Perhaps it’s not surprising that when Mike enlisted, he was assigned to the Parachute Battalion in the South Africa Defense.
After spending two years in South West Africa (now Namibia) engaged in civil war, Mike was transferred to the Calvary as a veterinary assistant. “The bond between horse and rider can become so strong, and so therapeutic – it’s difficult to describe. Riders that lost their horses in battle had a hard time finding another to ride. But once found, the bond is even greater. It’s as if the horse knows he lost his best friend, and he now has to fill the empty space,” said Mike.
Mike confessed to masking his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for over forty years. “Things that are normal to a civilian can trigger a veteran. Noises, sudden moves – we each have our own demons.”
In 2016 Mike was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. “Living with PD is a challenge after being so independent all my life. The biggest issue is the frustration of not being able to do what I used to.”
Mike’s psychotherapist suggested that Mike go to an equine therapy center for his PTSD, and to see if equine therapy would help with the Parkinson’s. Mike found Equest, and never looked back.
“In equine therapy on Wednesdays, we go out on trail rides. It’s so peaceful – if I have lost my sanity, I know where to find it.” — MIKE MAAS
While mounted, Mike’s tremors completely stop. He rides at Equest three times a week, and is enjoying activities like water skiing, skydiving, and running 5K marathons. “My dad had a famous saying, ‘Everything will work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end yet.’”