Equine Therapy Helpful for PTSD in Veterans, New Study Finds

Equine Therapy Helpful for PTSD in Veterans, New Study Finds

Equine Therapy Helpful for PTSD in Veterans, New Study Finds

Equine therapy is helpful for PTSD in veterans, a new study finds.

Veterans have high rates of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). With poor treatment outcomes, alternative treatments have began to gain traction, such as equine assisted therapy.

In a new study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the use of equine assisted therapy for PTSD was investigated.

The study looked an 8-week group equine therapy programme centred around horsemanship. Participants took part in grooming, join-up, and leading the horse through obstacles. Researchers suggested that these tasks emphasised skills such as non-verbal communication, self-regulation, and teamwork. Skills such as boundary setting, anxiety tolerance, and managing changes where also highlighted.

The researchers found that group equine therapy session for PSTD veterans were ‘safe, satisfying, and well-attended’.

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Over 50% of the participants showed more than 30% improved in PTSD and depressive symptoms scores. These scores were rated both by clinicians and the participants themselves. Moreover, these scores maintained their improvement at a three-month follow up.

Dr Fisher, a researcher from the study summed up the results;

Our findings that both PTSD and depressive symptoms significantly improved are very exciting because we demonstrated that our treatment is a viable alternative or supplemental treatment for those who suffer from PTSD.”

“Importantly, the veterans liked the treatment and completed the protocol, which is not the case for many other PTSD treatments where dropout rates are high.

The study was also the first of equine therapy study to outline specifics of the treatment protocol. Therefore, it can be used and taught within the field as a successful protocol.

Supported by the Man O’ War Project at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre, this is first university-led research study to explore to scientifically evaluate equine-assisted psychotherapy for veterans with PTSD.  It is also the first of its kind to developing a novel, well-specified treatment manual which will be made available to the field.

The Man O’ War project began in 2015 with funding from philanthropist, Ambassador Earle I. Mack. A veteran himself, Mack is a longtime thoroughbred owner/breeder, concerned about the mental health crisis facing veterans. He observed anecdotal accounts from various equine-assisted therapy groups, however found no hard science to support their claims.  Ambassador Mack then approached David Shaffer MD, former director of Psychiatry at the Columbia University and soon a team was formed, led by Dr. Prudence Fisher and Dr. Yuval Neria.

On the new study, Mack announced;

We are so thrilled to see the results of this scientifically validated equine assisted therapy study, which gives new hope to our brave veterans so deserving of our support. In addition, we have every reason to believe this protocol will be adaptable to other groups suffering from trauma, anxiety or PTSD,”

“So many people have been impacted by recent events and the pandemic has made things even more difficult for all age groups. This study shows great promise that we can help not only our veterans but others facing anxiety issues and mental health challenges.”

To read the full research article visit mowproject.org/research

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