A recent study found that PTSD scores dropped 87 percent after just six weeks of therapeutic horsemanship sessions.
Spoiler: The moral of the story is never underestimate the power of horses.
By some estimates, more than 23 million military veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year, described by Rebecca Johnson as “an anxiety disorder that occurs after exposure to life-threatening events or injuries and is marked by flashbacks, avoidance, and changes in beliefs and feelings.”
While counseling and behavior therapies are often prescribed to help treat the symptoms of PTSD, complementary therapies like therapeutic horseback riding (THR) have also been put into play. Johnson, a professor in the University Of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing, was interested in exploring how useful THR could be in treating PTSD. And thus, the study “Effects of therapeutic horseback riding on post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans” was born.
Working with a nearby Veterans Administration (VA) hospital, 29 military veterans suffering from PTSD were introduced to a THR program once a week for six weeks. In these sessions, they learned basic horsemanship skills and completed tasks on horseback. The hour-long classes consisted of grooming and interacting with the horse before riding, applying the riding tack to the horse, then riding with a horse leader. They also had side walkers until they were capable and comfortable enough to ride alone.
Kim and Ashley Hopkins
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