RESEARCH

Click here for Published Research

Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans with PTSD: Manual Development and Preliminary Findings

Click here for Published Research

Neural changes following equine-assisted therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: A longitudinal multimodal imaging study

Click Here for Published Research

Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans with PTSD: Manual Development and Preliminary Findings

Click Here for Published Research

Neural changes following equine-assisted therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: A longitudinal multimodal imaging study

ADVANCING THE FIELD OF EQUINE-ASSISTED THERAPY

While many groups offer equine-assisted therapy (EAT) and claim positive results, the reality is that EAT is not well studied and its efficacy for PTSD, or any other condition, has not been clinically established.

AIMS OF THE RESEARCH

  • Undertake research to establish the efficacy of Equine-Assisted Therapy for veterans with PTSD, which incorporates the highest levels of scientific rigor including utilizing state-of-the-art Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to further validate and strengthen the clinical data of the research (ACHIEVED)
  • Develop a standardized protocol for delivering group EAT for PTSD (ACHIEVED)
  • Prepare a manual that can be used by the larger field of practitioners (ACHIEVED)
  • Develop a training curriculum for practitioners (UNDERWAY)

WHY HORSES ARE HELPFUL IN TREATING PTSD

  • Horses are prey animals and naturally skittish (hypervigilant), presenting an opportunity for veterans to recognize and understand fear responses.
  • Horses are naturally sensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues, and thus provide good feedback to the veterans about how they are communicating.
  • Horses are herd animals, who live in a social structure and seek out social relationships.
  • Horses exist “in the moment,” and are forgiving, patient and nonjudgmental, allowing opportunities for veterans to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Unlike dogs, who grant love unconditionally, relationships with horses must be earned. One must build trust with a horse for it to welcome you into its world. Through EAT, veterans re-learn how to build trust and how to trust themselves again – valuable tools to help veterans succeed with family, work and social relationships.
  • EAT isn’t simply about making veterans “feel better,” it’s about helping them increase emotional awareness and the ability to regulate their emotions.

OUR TREATMENT STUDY WAS CONDUCTED AT THE BERGEN EQUESTRIAN CENTER IN LEONIA, NJ.

The study was comprised of:

  • Groups of 3-6 veterans; 2-3 horses
  • State-of-the-art MRI scans conducted prior to and after therapy series
  • Eight (8) 90-minute sessions (1 per week)
  • Veterans are guided through series of non-riding interactions with the horse
  • Groups are led by mental health professionals and equine specialists, with experienced “wranglers” to ensure safety
  • Veterans complete questionnaires and are clinically assessed regularly
  • All sessions are videotaped and reviewed by research and clinical teams

OUR TREATMENT STUDY WAS CONDUCTED AT THE BERGEN EQUESTRIAN CENTER IN LEONIA, NJ.

The study was comprised of:

  • Groups of 3-6 veterans; 2-3 horses
  • State-of-the-art MRI scans conducted prior to and after therapy series
  • Eight (8) 90-minute sessions (1 per week)
  • Veterans are guided through series of non-riding interactions with the horse
  • Groups are led by mental health professionals and equine specialists, with experienced “wranglers” to ensure safety
  • Veterans complete questionnaires and are clinically assessed regularly
  • All sessions are videotaped and reviewed by research and clinical teams

Each group begins with an “opening circle” in which the day’s activities are outlined, and ends with a “closing circle” in which the day’s session is discussed. In between the opening and closing circles, the group works together to complete activities with the horses under the guidance of the equine specialist.

The veterans learn how their actions, intentions, expectations and tone have an impact on their relationship with the horses (and ultimately with the people in their lives). Each session builds on the last and incorporates what the veterans learned the week before.

    THE TASKS ARE DESIGNED TO ENCOURAGE PARTICIPANTS TO PROBLEM-SOLVE, TAKE RISKS, USE THEIR OWN STRENGTHS AND CREATIVITY, AND FIND THE SOLUTIONS THAT WILL WORK BEST FOR THEM.

    The veterans learn how their actions, intentions, expectations and tone have an impact on their relationship with the horses (and ultimately with the people in their lives). Each session builds on the last and incorporates what the veterans learned the week before.

      THE TASKS ARE DESIGNED TO ENCOURAGE PARTICIPANTS TO PROBLEM-SOLVE, TAKE RISKS, USE THEIR OWN STRENGTHS AND CREATIVITY, AND FIND THE SOLUTIONS THAT WILL WORK BEST FOR THEM.

      Over the course of treatment, the equine specialist and the mental health professional assist veterans in drawing connections between what the horses may be doing, thinking, or feeling, and their own reactions and symptoms. Through this process the veterans increase emotional awareness and the ability to regulate their emotions.  They learn to more effectively interact with the horses, and by extension, with people in their lives.

      Veterans receive follow-up evaluations three months after the treatment to see the long-term effect of EAT for PTSD.

      Coming Soon - Current Activities

      Coming Soon -Future Projects and Next Steps