Horses helping combat veterans heal from the invisible wounds of war is the focus of a current research study funded by the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF). There is no group more universally highly regarded than our US wounded warriors, yet available treatments to address combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are limited and only moderately successful. Principal investigator Dr. Beth Lanning of Baylor University said that they “hypothesize that veterans participating in therapeutic riding (TR) will demonstrate an improvement in life satisfaction and participation and a reduction in PTSD symptoms. We theorize that one reason why TR leads to positive changes in behavior and a reduction in functional impairment for veterans with combat-related PTSD is that the partnership between the horse and the veteran provides a non-threatening foundation for self-exploration and post-traumatic growth.”
An estimated 300,000 veterans who were deployed since 2001 have returned with PTSD. We lose more veterans annually to suicide than we lost in combat during the entire Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Clearly, this is a problem we are obligated to solve. For many, equine assisted activities are the life changing experiences many seek.
This study will assess the changes in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, quality of life and participation of combat veterans who participate in equine assisted activities. The research team will be assessing 75 veterans participating in five different programs or test sites. The participants will not be receiving therapy from therapists in this program–they will be learning to ride and to care for the horses. This highly motivational setting seems to create almost magical healing type responses in the veterans who participate in thousands of similar programs around the country. Research will give us more definitive and more scientific answers regarding just what is occurring in the arena that is helpful for the veterans.
Horses and Humans Research Foundation’s executive director, K.C. Henry, from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said, “We are already excited about the research results. If they are as positive as many people expect, the VA and other support systems will have to take notice. We all want to give these veterans the best. They certainly deserve that.”
Horses and Humans Research Foundation is the only organization dedicated solely to funding research to support the equine-assisted activities and therapies field. Since its founding, HHRF has awarded $400,000 in professional research efforts led by eight research teams in the United States, Canada and Germany. The newest award, “Examination of the effects of equine assisted activities on PTSD symptoms, quality of life and participation in combat veterans” is the result of seed funding contributed by Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Programs of Washington D.C. The Caisson Platoon EAP, located at the Caisson Platoon training area on Fort Belvoir, serves the National Intrepid Centers of Excellence Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, and at Rock Creek Park, serving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the DC Veterans Administration.
To make a donation and/or learn more about this and other Horses and Humans Research Foundation projects please visit http://www.horsesandhumans.org.