‘A Special Bond’: The Power of Equine-Assisted Therapy

From: America’s Best Racing

By: David Hill

EXCERPT

Earle Mack, the former Ambassador to Finland who initiated and funds the Man O’ War Project, says the status quo in treating PTSD is unacceptable.

“The scientific and medical community has made great strides in understanding, recognizing, and diagnosing PTSD among veterans in the last several decades,” he said. “While our veterans have far more resources than ever before, many still do not receive treatment. Tragically, 20 veterans lose their lives to suicide every day.”

Mack grew up around horses, riding down trails in Westchester near the Rockefeller estate. When he finished college, he bought his first racehorse and got involved in the horse racing industry as an owner and a breeder. Working with horses, he learned the good that horses could do in building up emotional confidence.

“I know from experience that it’s a challenge to win the confidence of a horse – they are hypersensitive animals. But once you do win their confidence, it provides a real sense of accomplishment.”

Mack is also a U.S. Army veteran, and when he heard about EAP, he believed it could make a real difference helping veterans with PTSD. In 2015, he solicited the help of Columbia University to study the therapy, and he gifted the program more than $1 million from the Earle Mack Foundation.

The Man O’ War Project treats veterans over an eight-week period, working with therapists and horses in “non-riding interactions.” In addition to treating veterans using EAP, the project is also working to gather data and develop best best practices for therapists to use around the country. The treatment program, however, stands in stark contrast to what many veterans experience in more traditional trauma therapies.

“They’re not in a therapist’s office – they are at a beautiful horse farm, interacting with caring mental-health professionals and the horses. It’s a totally different experience,” Mack said. “The equine therapy program at Columbia also doesn’t ask veterans to address their traumas directly, as traditional treatments often do. Rather, the veterans are brought through a series of interactions with the horses that help them better understand and regulate their own behaviors and emotions.”

All of these programs are producing more than just positive results from the veterans that participate in them; they’re also experiencing a rising demand. And the veterans who go through EAP are in turn volunteering to help out with the programs or to continue to work with horses, either in the equine industry or through other therapeutic programs. This is helping to expand the gospel of horse-based therapy for veterans. The Earle Mack Foundation has committed to pledge more money to the Man O’ War Project this year, and there are waiting lists for programs around the country.

Finish the article from America’s Best Racing about organizations and individual therapists who have turned to horses to help veterans heal: https://www.americasbestracing.net/lifestyle/2018-special-bond-the-power-equine-assisted-therapy