Therapeutic horseback riding as a complementary intervention for military service members with PTSD

Beth A. Lanning, PhD, MCHES, Baylor University
Amelia L. Wilson, DSc, OTR/L CPT, SP, William Beaumont Army Medical Center
Robert Woelk, Hope for Heroes Equine Therapy Consulting
Alexander Beaujean, PhD, ABAP, Baylor University

Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy and potential effectiveness of an 8-week therapeutic horseback riding [THR] program for veterans with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. Eighty-nine military service members diagnosed with PTSD participated in either the THR group (n = 51) or the comparison group (n = 38). Group mean score differences in PTSD and depression symptoms, quality of life, functioning and disability scores were compared at baseline, 4 weeks, and post intervention. THR participants reported clinically meaningful improvement in PTSD (-13.02 points) and depression (-7.65 points) symptoms and mental health scores (+ 9.61 points) overtime. In comparison, change in comparison group mean scores indicated less improvement in the same variables. Group differences in PTSD and depression symptom scores and mental health scores increased pre to post intervention, resulting in a moderate to large effect size (g = -0.43 to 0.62). Two-month follow-up reflected sustained improvement in key variables. Outcomes of the study support the potential effectiveness of THR as complementary intervention for military service members with combat-related PTSD.