Accustoming one’s self to a new environment is easy for no one. As veterans come back home, they are met with a number of challenges. A 2011 Straits-Troster study concluded that up to 40% of the returning troops suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The conclusions of the study highlighted the fact that not only do the veterans and their families suffer as a result of the stress, but a butterfly effect is caused in the form of resultant domestic violence, poverty, unemployment, homelessness and often suicide.
Because these facts had not been brought to light earlier, the interest in these veterans’ mental health issues has escalated only recently, and a number of measures are being taken to counteract them.
One way to address them has been ‘horse sense’. Horse sense prevails for veterans all the way from Vietnam to Afghanistan, softening the transition from the war-torn areas back to their homes, in order to get back to living life to the fullest.
Horses are Known to Help with Mental Conditions
Horses have been described by many as a pure incarnation of majesty. These soulful creatures not only possess great physical power, but also the power to heal. Horse owners often state that the animal can pick up on emotions and treat you likewise, imitating your emotions. Working with horses calls for a composed, tranquil way of communicating. This basically results in an exercise in self-control as well as emotional awareness, regulating emotions and curbing impulses. This can be a great catalyst for motivation, serving as an exceedingly effective environment for rehabilitation.
Equine Therapy for Veterans
The Supervisory Recreation Therapist Department of Veterans Affairs has stated that, as of now, over 30 VA Medical Centers are known to be full participants of Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) programs all over the US. Veterans are able to reconnect not only with themselves but also with others around them, through equine therapy. They have noted to be more empathetic towards friends and family, and have exhibited more self-confidence than before along with a great deal of self-acceptance.
A recent study at Fort Carson, CO, concluded that the risk of exhibiting violence in veterans after equine therapy has decreased by 24%, and a decrease in suicide rate has also been seen, by a whopping 62%. These are the kind of results that are drawing attention from veterans and their families, as this ability of horses to sense behaviors is seen to prevail as a treatment method among those suffering from postwar trauma.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, equine therapy has been beneficial in the treatment of various kinds of patients. These include veterans with depression, PTSD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, conduct disorders as well as other mental illnesses.
In the initial phase, the veterans do not ride horses. They participate in a number of activities that require collaboration. When the horses imitate the emotions of the veterans, they provide the therapists with a hint as to what is going on in the veterans’ minds. As horse sense prevails among veterans, it aids them in controlling their anger, accepting any bad memories as well as surviving situations in their civilian life that they may be confronted with, and to go along living normally with their friends and families.
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