BENEFITS OF THERAPEUTIC RIDING CONFIRMED
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