When a person is said to have “horse sense” it means they tend to have common sense or good judgment. It turns out that horses possess a remarkable sense for helping heal veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide a day. In 2019, the most recent year of data available from the VA, 6,261 veterans in the U.S. took their own lives. Equine-assisted therapy is one life-saving tool that could prevent these tragedies.
New research shows that equine therapy, a treatment method that uses the connection between people and horses to enhance emotional healing, can jump start the healing process for veterans who suffer from PTSD, according to the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry.
“Both PTSD patients and horses are preoccupied with ongoing concerns about trust and safety. This innovative therapy facilitates bonding, overcoming fear, and re-establishing confidence,” said Dr. Yuval Neria, professor of medical psychology and director at Columbia’s PTSD program. “One must build trust for a horse to warm to you.”
The Warrior Ranch Foundation in Calverton, NY, is one organization that pairs rescued horses with veterans. By rescuing, retraining, and repurposing horses, the Foundation provides a way to give those suffering from PTSD a path and a sense of purpose. Veterans and first responders help groom, feed, and exercise the horses. The participants develop a bond with the horses and help them overcome fears. In doing so, the humans naturally lower their own stress levels, and enjoy the companionship of working with animals.
“It helps veterans because it’s entirely based on trust,” a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran told Fox News. “A lot of veterans come from a distrustful place, and you’re never going to fool a horse. Whether you feel anxious or fearful, they are going to know. You have to build that trust up, and that builds your confidence and self-awareness.”
At Beachwood Integrative Equine Therapy (IET), with locations in Rhode Island and Florida, warmblood horses are the four-legged therapists that are teamed with specially trained IET human therapists.
“Beachwood’s warmblood horses were originally bred to carry knights into battle,” says executive director Rev. Lynne Bryan Phipps. “Today, they have the heart, spirit and ability to connect and carry our warriors home.”
IET is an evidence-based protocol that uses specific horse breeds and IET therapists to help veterans and their families get to the root causes of anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, and the physical symptoms of stress.
“Horses are mirrors,” Phipps tells Newsmax. “They show us what we are thinking and feeling, even when we don’t know it ourselves.” Beachwood’s horses and IET therapists create a place of safety so veterans can drop their guard and access the trauma part of the brain. They are able to shift perspective and heal.
“Beachwood’s horses and therapists help veterans shift from reaction to healthy responses,” she adds. In fact, Brown University researchers also found that Beachwood’s evidence-based physical, mental, and emotional protocol helps people heal from anxiety in one-third of the time and at one-third of the out-of-pocket costs of traditional therapies.
A U.S. army veteran and his caregiver wife found this out firsthand after his two tours of Iraq. They came to Beachwood for support dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. After only six months, the mental, physical, and emotional symptoms shifted dramatically for both of them.
“Beachwood horses and IET therapists are lifesavers,” said the caregiver. “It made me feel whole again. After nothing else worked, they became my angels without wings.”
“I’m down from five antidepressants to three with more reductions to come,” said the veteran. “This is better than anything the VA ever gave me or made available to me.”
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