|The Horses and Humans Research Foundation has awarded a $50,000 research grant to the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. The ReCHAI team will examine the effects of six weeks of therapeutic horseback riding on 40 U.S. military veterans with post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. Specifically, the multi-disciplinary investigative team will systematically evaluate whether the horseback riding intervention affects participants’ experience of PTSD symptoms, including coping skills, emotional regulation and social engagement. The study, “Effects of Equine-Assisted Activities on PTSD Symptoms, Coping Self-Efficacy, Emotion Regulation, and Social Engagement in Military Veterans,” is community-based and takes an innovative approach to treating the symptoms of PTSD/TBI which as many as one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans experience.
“U.S. military veterans have made great sacrifices for their country,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and ReCHAI director, and the study’s principal investigator. “After combat deployment, very large numbers of them experience post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. These conditions make it extremely difficult for the veterans to readjust to civilian life. Research so far is promising that therapeutic horseback riding can help people with such physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges. But no studies of veterans have been done."
Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two study groups, an experimental group and a control group. The experimental or riding group will spend one hour per week interacting with and riding the same horse at one of three PATH-accredited riding centers in mid-Missouri under the supervision of an occupational therapist. Riding will follow a systematic lesson plan and be directed by a PATH-certified instructor, a leader and side walkers as necessary. Participants will be evaluated when they enter the study, after three weeks of riding, and again after six weeks of riding. Veterans in the control group will be assessed when they enter the study, and three and six weeks later while they wait to switch to the riding group.
“We are so pleased to award a research grant to Rebecca Johnson and her team at the University of Missouri so they can investigate how horses might help veterans in a therapeutic setting,” said Lynn Shaw, HHRF Board president. “With PTSD and TBI being the most prevalent injuries we see in returning military personnel, this research is exceptionally timely and important. We are extremely appreciative of the visionary donors who made this grant possible.”
This special research fund began with a seed contribution from the Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program, which serves the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. It is the first of a series of specially focused research initiatives planned by HHRF for the coming years, a departure from the more general research funding that has been available since the organization was founded in 2004.