Study Proves Benefits of Horses in Therapy

Brain changes were seen in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The equine-assisted therapy (EAT) has benefits for treating post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. This study, US researchers say, is the first to show that EAT can “affect functional and structural changes” in the brains of patients. 19 veterans completed eight weekly group sessions of EAT, with clinical assessments and neuroimaging before and after treatment during the peer reviewed research.

Significant increase was shown by the patients in connectivity between different regions of the brain, and reduction in grey matter density of the thalamus, a hub in the brain, suggesting EAT may target the “reward circuit” of the brain.

During the study, the researcher Yuval Neria, said that is a fascinating discovery that the horse and patient with PTSD share a lot of commonalities; the patient is constantly preoccupied with issues of fear and trust and it’s the same for the horse. Horses are prey animals; constantly alert and hypervigilant. But they are social, looking to bond and feel safe, so they share these key elements with patients with PTSD.

After the research, the study shown that EAT is good for PTSD in veterans so the researchers think it would be good for PTSD in other populations such as traumatised children. By the end, the veterans seemed much more relaxed and different – they stood up straighter and the difference was striking.

Extracted from Horse & Hound magazine, 'Study proves benefits of horses in therapy' 11 March 2021.