New research shows that horses can provide a unique form of therapy for veterans battling PTSD.

Caring for and being around horses has the potential of starting the healing process for many military veterans with PTSD, as well as teaching them about the horses and what their needs are.

Ryba, director of community outreach and education for the Military Family Wellness Center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said, “We saw with the study that a lot of people who were not amenable to going into traditional therapy. Because they had an idea of what mental health therapy was because they had this kind of ingrained sense of, ‘I don’t need help. I’m a military service member. I’m stronger than this kind of a thing.”

This unique form of therapy has found success and gives veterans someone to take care of and have someone to take care of them too. This may be more helpful sometimes than telling them that they need help and sending them to a therapist.

Ryba said, “We’re at a very pivotal moment where programs like this … and the other military support programs for veterans are of the utmost importance. We see the suicide rate continuing to rise. These problems are getting worse and not better, and we really need the support from the public and from others to be able to fund this kind of research so that we can find tools to be able to help veterans that need it.”

The program involves eight weeks of veterans spending 90 minutes of one-on-one time with horses to talk about their PTSD or traumas if they feel up to it. They are usually grouped into pairs with two veterans, two horses, an equine expert, a mental health professional, and another staff member.

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