Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder might benefit from therapeutic horseback riding, a small study suggests.
“Our findings provide empirical evidence that [therapeutic horseback riding] is effective at improving coping skills and in lessening one’s difficulty with emotional regulation, especially with longer riding interventions,” wrote Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and her associates.
Overall, 57 veterans were recruited and 28 enrolled in the randomized trial at baseline. Those individuals were randomized into two groups: a wait-list control group and a treatment group. Eventually, all of the veterans participated in the therapeutic riding program. Meanwhile, the riding center staff were not aware of which veterans had been assigned to either group. The, a nonprofit group that promotes equine-related activities for people with special needs, selected the horses that were used in the study. During the data collection periods, PTSD symptoms were measured via the PTSD Checklist–Military Version, or . This self-report measure asks patients about problems in response to “stressful military experiences,” the researchers wrote. The and the were among the other instruments used.
While riding, the results showed, participants had a statistically significant decrease in PTSD symptoms over the course of the 6-week program. “,” Dr. Johnson and her associates wrote. “Further detailed examination showed that participants had a 66.7% likelihood of having lower PTSD scores at 3 weeks, and an 87.5% likelihood at 6 weeks.”
Anecdotally, some of the veterans wanted to continue therapeutic riding after the end of the program, and they were able to do so.
“We conclude that [therapeutic horseback riding] shows promise as a beneficial intervention for veterans with PTSD, but did not measure functional ability,” they wrote.