13 News Now reports that a program partnering combat veterans with horses is helping treat their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
“Equine Therapy” is a program based in Hampton, Virginia that works with veterans battling PTSD. Up to ten PTSD patients from the Hampton V.A. Medical Center attend the weekly program as a form of therapy treatment for their PTSD symptoms.
Dr. Kathleen Decker, a psychiatrist with the Hampton V.A., founded the program four years ago.
“…we teach them to manage the horse,” Decker said. “And in doing so they learn to manage their own emotions, relax, and then they discover things about themselves they didn’t realize.”
Managing their emotions and being calm is a critical component of this program, as noted by Iraq war veteran Kyle McCullen.
“Well, horses, they can read you, when you’re coming up on them, they can read you,” McCullen noted. “If you’re calm, they’re calm. That’s the biggest part of it.”
Remaining calm is necessary to manage the 800 to 1,000 pound, powerful animal. By practicing this with the horses, the veterans are seeing benefits outside of the therapy sessions.
“Yeah, it helps,” said McCullen. “Slowly, I’m working back into the crowds.”