By: Eric Mitchell
“Several years ago, Thoroughbred owner/breeder Earle Mack began hearing stories about military veterans finding relief from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder through hands-on therapy sessions with horses.
A U.S. Army veteran who rose to the rank of lieutenant, Mack became keen on further exploring these overlapping passions of his—finding opportunities for ex-racehorses and raising awareness of a full-blown PTSD crisis that afflicts up to 30% of veterans nationwide and claims an average of 20 lives per day to suicide.
‘For the equine industry, the most important thing to us is the horse and protecting them from being mistreated or slaughtered,’ said Mack, a real estate developer and passionate Thoroughbred aftercare advocate. ‘As a country, one of our top priorities is to help our veterans that suffer from these mental wounds that are as debilitating or more debilitating than a bullet wound.’
Mack could see the potential but also a substantial road block. Though dozens of equine therapy programs existed, their results were anecdotal and lacked the verifiable evidence required to access broader financial support and acceptance from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
‘You could see these programs getting success with no defined protocol. It was sure to improve with a definitive study and protocol,’ Mack said. ‘There had to be a methodology. You can’t just do it ad hoc.’
Neria and Fisher would become co-leaders in the equine therapy research program initiated by the Man O’ War Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the first clinical research study to determine the effectiveness of equine therapy on PTSD. Mack kick-started the effort with a $1.2 million grant from his Earle I. Mack Foundation.”