Equine-assisted activities and therapies for military veterans: Results from an exploratory survey and pilot intervention study
Preliminary studies have shown that Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) may provide unique benefits for U.S. military veterans returning from service with psychological and physical wounds. In particular, recent studies suggest EAAT may be effective in reducing veterans’ symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (Lanning et al., 2017). However, more research is needed to understand why veterans might seek out EAAT, and under what conditions EAAT interventions may be the most effective for veterans with PTSD. Therefore, two investigations were developed with aims to generate new knowledge about EAAT for veterans. Study 1 involved a cross-sectional survey to investigate college-going veterans’ (N = 29) interest in EAAT, as well as factors that may influence their interest in EAAT. Results of this study indicated that access to nature was not associated with interest in EAAT. Correlational analyses showed that PTSD symptomology was associated with lower levels of wellbeing, as well as higher levels of interest across, all EAAT categories. Women veterans reported significantly higher levels of interest in all EAAT modalities, and student veterans of both genders indicated higher levels of interest in Therapeutic Riding. Experiment 2 involved the evaluation of a six-week therapeutic riding intervention for veterans experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic (n =3). Results indicated veterans experienced reductions in symptoms of PTSD, as well as increases in self-reported wellbeing; however, participants did not experience meaningful changes across physiological measures of stress. These data provide new insights regarding the effects of EAAT for veterans, as well as informs the design of more rigorous experimental research studies and the development of effective EAAT programs for veterans.