EQUUS - - Eq Medical Front -

A new study adds to the grow­ing body of ev­i­dence of the heal­ing power of horses.

Univer­sity of Mis­souri re­searchers set out to quan­tify the ef­fects of a ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing pro­gram ac­cred­ited by the Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ther­a­peu­tic Horse­man­ship (PATH) on vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD). A con­di­tion that oc­curs as a re­sult of in­jury or se­vere psy­cho­log­i­cal shock, PTSD can cause a va­ri­ety of symp­toms in­clud­ing anx­i­ety, flash­backs and an in­abil­ity to feel pos­i­tive emo­tions.

The study fo­cused on 29 vet­er­ans di­ag­nosed with PTSD: Fif­teen were en­rolled in a rid­ing pro­gram at a PATH-cer­ti­fied fa­cil­ity and the re­main­ing 14 were on a wait list so they served as con­trols un­til they be­gan the pro­gram six weeks later. The pro­gram’s par­tic­i­pants fol­lowed a cur­ricu­lum that in­cor­po­rated groom­ing and tack­ing up as well as weekly rid­ing lessons con­ducted by PATH in­struc­tors and over­seen by occu- pa­tional ther­a­pists.

At the be­gin­ning of the pro­gram, at the three-week mark and again at the end of the study pe­riod, each vet­eran’s symp­toms were mea­sured us­ing a stan­dard­ized mil­i­tary check­list for PTSD, along with other stan­dard­ized psy­cho­log­i­cal sur­veys that mea­sure emo­tional well-be­ing, coping skills and lone­li­ness. At the end of the first study pe­riod, the wait-listed vet­er­ans en­tered the pro­gram and the same data was col­lected.

The re­searchers found that par­tic­i­pants in the ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing pro­gram showed clin­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tions in their PTSD symp­toms. Over­all, the par­tic­i­pants had a 66.7 per­cent like­li­hood of hav­ing lower PTSD scores by the third week of the pro­gram, and 87.5 per­cent like­li­hood at six weeks.

The re­searchers con­clude that ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing pro­grams are a con­struc­tive ac­tiv­ity for re­duc­ing PTSD symp­toms and that rid­ing for longer pe­ri­ods of time has a stronger in­flu­ence than rid­ing for shorter pe­ri­ods of time.

Ref­er­ence: “Ef­fects of ther­a­peu­tic horse­back rid­ing on post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der in mil­i­tary vet­er­ans,” Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Re­search, Jan­uary 2018

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