Horses and Humans Research Foundation Awards $50,000 to Study Effects of Therapeutic Riding On Veterans With PTSD and/or TBI

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CHAGRIN FALLS, OH — MAR. 22, 2013 — The Horses and Humans Research Foundation awarded its seventh $50,000 research grant recently to a team from the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine. The team will examine the effects of 6 weeks of therapeutic horseback riding on 40 U.S. military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or Traumatic Brain Injury. Specifically, the multi-disciplinary investigative team will systematically evaluate whether the horseback riding intervention impacts participants' experience of PTSD symptoms, including coping skills, emotional regulation and social engagement. The study, "Effects of Equine-Assisted Activities on PTSD Symptoms, Coping Self-Efficacy, Emotion Regulation, and Social Engagement in Military Veterans," is community-based and takes an innovative approach to treating the symptoms of PTSD/TBI which as many as one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans experience.

"U.S. military veterans have made great sacrifices for their country," said Principal Investigator Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Director, Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine. "After combat deployment, very large numbers of them experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. These conditions make it extremely difficult for the veterans to readjust to civilian life. Research so far is promising that therapeutic horseback riding can help people with such physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges. But no studies of veterans have been done."

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two study groups, an experimental group and a control group. The experimental or Riding Group will spend one hour per week interacting with and riding the same horse at one of three PATH-accredited riding centers in Mid-Missouri under the supervision of an Occupational Therapist. Riding will follow a systematic lesson plan and be directed by a PATH-certified instructor, a leader and side walkers as necessary. Participants will be evaluated when they enter the study, after 3 weeks of riding, and again after 6 weeks of riding. Veterans in the Control Group will be assessed when they enter the study, and 3 and 6 weeks later while they wait to switch to the Riding Group.

"We are so pleased to award a research grant to Rebecca Johnson and her team at the University of Missouri so they can investigate how horses might help veterans in a therapeutic setting," said Lynn Shaw, HHRF Board President. "With PTSD and TBI being the most prevalent injuries we see in returning military personnel, this research is exceptionally timely and important. We are extremely appreciative of the visionary donors who made this grant possible."

This special research fund began with a seed contribution from the Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program, which serves the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. It is the first of a series of specially focused research initiatives planned by HHRF for the coming years, a departure from the more general research funding that has been available since the organization was founded in 2004.

Horses and Humans Research Foundation is the only organization dedicated solely to funding research to support the equine-assisted activities and therapies field. To make a donation and/or learn more about this and other Horses and Humans Research Foundation projects please email info@horsesandhumans.org or visit http://www.horsesandhumans.org.