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Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans with PTSD: Manual Development and Preliminary Findings

By S. Arnon, P. W. Fisher, A. Pickover, A. Lowell, J. B. Turner, A. Hilburn, J. Jacob-McVey, B. E. Malajian, D. G. Farber, J. F. Hamilton, A. Hamilton, J. C. Markowitz, Y. Neria

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INTRODUCTION: Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has attracted great interest despite lacking empirical support, a manual, and a standardized protocol. Our team of experts in EAT and PTSD developed an eight-session group EAT treatment protocol for PTSD (EAT-PTSD) and administered it to two pilot groups of military veterans to assess initial effects. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We describe the development of the treatment manual, which was used with two pilot groups of veterans. Protocol safety, feasibility, and acceptability were assessed by reported adverse events, treatment completion rates, and self-rated patient satisfaction. Preliminary data on PTSD, depressive, and anxiety symptoms and quality of life were collected pretreatment, midpoint, post-treatment, and at 3-month follow up. RESULTS: No adverse events were recorded. All patients completed treatment, reporting high satisfaction. Preliminary data showed decreases in clinician-assessed PTSD and depressive symptoms from pre to post-treatment and follow-up (medium to large effect sizes, d = .54-1.8), with similar trends across self-report measures (d = 0.72-1.6). In our pilot sample, treatment response and remission varied; all patients showed some benefit post-treatment, but gains did not persist at follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: This article presents the first standardized EAT protocol. Highly preliminary results suggest our new manualized group EAT-PTSD appears safe, well-regarded, and well-attended, yielding short-term benefits in symptomatology and quality of life if unclear length of effect. Future research should test this alternative treatment for PTSD more rigorously.

Publication Title Mil Med
Volume 185
Issue 5-6
Pages e557-e564
ISBN/ISSN 0026-4075 (Print)0026-4075
DOI 10.1093/milmed/usz444
Author Address New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032.Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032.Bergen Equestrian Center, 40 Fort Lee Road, Leonia, NJ 07605.EquiSense Solutions LLC, 33 West 93rd Street, 3B, New York, NY 10025.Rancho Bosque Equestrian Center of Excellence, House Hamilton Business Group, PLC, 8649 E Woodland Road, Tucson, AZ 85749.Department of Surgery, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85724.Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.
Additional Language English
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Anxiety
  3. Females
  4. Hippotherapy
  5. Horses
  6. Humans
  7. Males
  8. open access
  9. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  10. Quality of life
  11. Stress
  12. Treatment outcomes
  13. veterans
  1. open access