Equine therapy helps military vets with PTSD

13News Now Mike Gooding has the story.

HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) -- An unusual program is proving to be effective in treating returning combat vets with PTSD.   It's called "Equine Therapy". It uses horses to help post 9/11 troops who are experiencing agitation.

"Well, horses, they can read you, when you're coming up on them, they can read you," said Army Operation Iraqi Freedom vet Kyle McCullen. "If you're calm, they're calm. That's the biggest part of it."

Once a week, up to ten Post Traumatic Stress Disorder patients at the Hampton V.A. Medical Center get the help they need, not from some bottle of prescription pills, but something much more soothing: a horse.

In this case, a wild Corolla Mustang called Gary Marshall.

The patients must be assertive, yet calm. By bringing their emotions under control, they bring the 800 to 1,000 pound horse under control.  It's a mutually beneficial relationship, says McCullen.

"Yeah, it helps," he said. "Slowly, I'm working back into crowds."

According to the Rand Corporation's study,"Invisible Wounds of War," 14 percent, or, approximately 378,000 post-9/11 veterans — met symptom criteria for PTSD.

Hampton V.A. psychiatrist Dr. Kathleen Decker launched the Veterans Equine Therapy program four year ago.

"And we teach them to manage the horse," said Decker. "And in doing so they learn to manage their own emotions, calm down, relax and then they discover things about themselves they didn't realize."

Friday's demonstration was part of the Hampton VA Medical Center's Transition and Care Management team's "Welcome Home Heroes Event ," to help local vets learn what services are available to them.

"Any veteran can call us and get registered and we will help them get any care that they need," said Julia Allaman, Transition Care Program Manager.


 


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