Challenge Grant to Support Research on Equine Programs Serving Veterans with PTSD/TBI

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Research will focus on the Therapeutic Effects of Equine Assisted Rehabilitation for Veterans with PTSD and/or TBI. The Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program, which serves the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, donated a $23,000 challenge grant to the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF). This fund is designated to help address a serious and growing problem in the United States: Untreated mental health problems among returning troops. The research will focus on equine-assisted rehabilitation for veterans who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs, co-founded by Mary Jo Beckman, Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Larry D. Pence, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army (Retired), uniquely utilize the help of the caisson military horses (noted for their participation in military ceremonies). Beckman said supporting research is critical to the future of these programs.

"We look forward to equine-assisted activities being recognized as a valuable treatment for both TBI and PTSD," she said.

Two of the leading diagnoses among returning troops are PTSD and/or TBI, with 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from PTSD or major depression, and about 320,000 experiencing at least a mild concussion or TBI in combat, according to a RAND Corp. study.

These and other mental health issues are expected to cost the nation up to $6.2 billion over two years in medical costs, lost productivity and lives lost to suicide. According to Pence: “Fewer than 1% of the American population serves in our military. We send them off around the world to do what our nation asks them to do. When they come back less than whole, it’s not an Army problem, a Marine problem or a Navy problem. It is an American problem. We have a responsibility to make them whole again, to find them treatments to do it best. The research becomes extremely urgent and extremely important. A person who lost their left arm, we know how to deal with that; prosthetics have improved several times over in last 12 years, as it always does in times of war. We know much less about how to deal with TBI and PTSD--the brain is such a complex and marvelous machine. We need the research to show the rest of the world the statistics regarding the effectiveness of these equine programs. It will help lead many more veterans into this direction.”

Make a contribution to HHRF today and help ensure that this important research continues. For more information on this research, on the foundation or on becoming a donor, contact KC Henry, Executive Director, at KCHenry@horsesandhumans.org.

Through investment in rigorous research, Horses and Humans Research Foundation will serve as a catalyst to advance knowledge of horses and their potential to impact on the health and wellness of people. The foundation’s goal is to promote research that will: 1) Benefit special program participants by improving equine assisted activity best practices; and 2) educate the public, including professional affiliates, regarding the impact of horses and equine assisted activities.