When Horses Are Healers: How Horses are Helping Veterans with Recovery

November 01, 2022 2 min read

As horse owners, we are very familiar with the special connection you can make with a horse. It’s a bonding moment based on truth and honesty and takes a long time to develop. This is one of the reasons horse therapy has been so successful for people who’ve experienced trauma. A study by the University of Columbia has shown equine therapy significantly reduced PTSD and depressive symptoms three months post-treatment.

The success of equine therapy is primarily based on the nonjudgemental interaction between horses and veterans. Therapy horses do not have expectations or motives and a keen ability to understand human attitudes and behaviors.

What is equine therapy?

Equine therapy is a veteran interacting with a therapy horse and mental health professional. Each therapy plan will be slightly different based on the individual. Still, most involve interacting with a therapy horse and trainer a few times a week and a group session with a mental health professional. 

Benefits of Veteran Horse Therapy

Horseback riding and equine therapy have been successful in helping people with:

  • Assertiveness
  • Emotional awareness
  • Empathy
  • Stress tolerance
  • Impulse control
  • Problem-solving
  • Independence
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Traumatic brain injury

Why does equine therapy work for veterans?

Horses have an innate ability to understand people’s moods, behaviors, and body language. This skill has been honed for centuries and is a survival skill for horses. Veterans and horses have been thoughts to be hypervigilant of their surroundings and any potential dangers. This hypervigilance and rapid response to situations is deeply ingrained.

Horses can also sense pain, anxiety, and fear. This ability allows them to react appropriately to meet the veteran’s needs. They understand and still choose to trust the situation, building a bond with the veteran.

Equine Therapy Resources

Many horse therapy professionals worldwide help with various issues, from congenital disabilities to trauma and PTSD. We’ve listed a few resources to check if you or someone you know is looking for equine therapy assistance. Keep in mind that these resources are not just for veterans.

Horse Play Therapy: Providing horse therapy for kids with congenital disabilities, victims of violence, and adults with neurological disorders.

Equine Therapy Group: This is a great place to find action-based therapy programs, including equine therapy.

Operation We Are Here: This is an excellent place to start when looking for equine therapy locations. The site was created to increase awareness of the challenges of the military community and provide a comprehensive list of resources for the military community and its supporters.

A Helping Hoof: A Helping Hoof, PLLC, was started in 2007 as a place where people who dealt with anxiety and depression could come to work with horses to help them feel better. The program began with a specialty in helping veterans struggling with issues around the transition from military to civilian life and who had suffered some form of trauma while in the military. In recent years, it has expanded to include people of all ages and backgrounds.


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