Horse therapy offers hope to veterans with PTSD

Service dogs are to known to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) manage their symptoms. Although less common, horse-assisted therapy has also emerged as a valuable way of supporting former service members as they transition from military to civilian life.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has partnered with PEACE Ranch in Traverse City, Michigan, for a therapy program that uses rescue horses to help veterans with PTSD. A licensed mental health therapist works with veterans at the ranch for eight hours each week. In light of the program’s success over the past three years, the VHA has sought to double its hours. The expansion will allow the program to help almost twice as many veterans as the current 170.

“More time for PEACE Ranch means that more veterans will successfully be able to deal with the PTSD that is confining them in their lives, and basically coming out here gives them new life,” said PEACE Ranch Executive Director Jackie Kaschel.

Horse therapy can serve as an alternative or supplementary healing method when traditional treatments and medications prove ineffective. In the January issue of the journal Social Work, researchers reported that equine-facilitated mental health programs have shown promise in treating veterans with mental health problems and reintegration issues.

There are many equine programs available to veterans throughout the United States. Nonprofit organization Wounded Warrior Project works with PATH Int’l Equine Services for Heroes to heal using horses. Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association also promotes horse-assisted psychotherapy for veterans suffering from mental health issues.

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