Why Horses? Understanding the

Unique benefits of equine assisted services for veterans

Research suggests that 1 in 4 veterans in the United States are suffering from mental illness. In the realm of therapeutic interventions, equine-assisted services stand out as a uniquely impactful approach, especially for our veterans. This blog post delves into the profound and distinctive advantages that the connection between humans and horses offers to those who have served our country.

From emotional healing to building trust, this exploration aims to shed light on the transformative power of equine therapy in enhancing the well-being of veterans, showcasing the remarkable bond that exists between these majestic animals and those who have sacrificed so much for our nation.

Benefits of Equine Assisted Services for Veterans

There are numerous benefits of equine-assisted services for veterans. Let’s explore some of these benefits:

1.      Emotional Healing:

Equine therapy acts as a powerful catalyst for emotional healing among veterans by providing a safe and non-judgmental space. Horses, with their intuitive nature, enable veterans to confront and process deep emotional wounds, especially those associated with trauma or PTSD.

The therapeutic bond formed in this setting allows veterans to navigate and overcome these emotional challenges at their own pace.

2.      Building Trust:

Veterans, often grappling with trust issues, find equine therapy conducive to rebuilding connections. The relational dynamics with horses, grounded in mutual respect and understanding, create a foundation for trust.

As veterans learn to connect with these animals, the experience transfers to human relationships, fostering a sense of security and trustworthiness.

3.      Coping Skills:

Interacting with horses imparts valuable coping skills to veterans, empowering them to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges effectively. The process of caring for and working with horses requires patience, resilience, and problem-solving, skills that directly translate into effective coping mechanisms for veterans facing various life stressors.

4.      Enhanced Communication:

Equine therapy enhances both verbal and non-verbal communication skills in veterans. The necessity of clear communication with horses encourages veterans to express their emotions and needs more effectively.

This improved communication extends beyond the therapy setting, positively impacting their interactions with fellow veterans, family, and friends.

5.      Reduced Isolation:

Group equine therapy sessions create a supportive community for veterans, alleviating feelings of isolation. The shared experience of working with horses fosters camaraderie, providing a sense of belonging and understanding.

This group dynamic encourages veterans to share their challenges and triumphs, further reducing the sense of isolation often associated with trauma.

6.      Improved Self-Esteem:

Accomplishing tasks with horses significantly boosts veterans’ confidence and self-esteem. The sense of achievement derived from successfully working with these powerful animals translates into a renewed sense of purpose.

This positive reinforcement contributes to improved self-worth and a more positive self-image.

7.      Physical Well-Being:

Engaging in horse-related activities contributes to veterans’ physical fitness. The nature of these activities, such as grooming, feeding, and riding, promotes improved coordination, balance, and overall well-being.

The physical aspect of equine therapy complements the emotional and mental components, offering a holistic approach to veteran rehabilitation.

8.      Mindfulness and Presence:

Working with horses encourages veterans to be present in the moment. This focus on mindfulness promotes mental clarity, especially beneficial for managing trauma-related symptoms.

The rhythmic and calming nature of interacting with horses provides a therapeutic escape, allowing veterans to momentarily set aside intrusive thoughts and be fully present in the therapeutic experience.

9.      Empathy Development:

Understanding and responding to the needs of horses fosters empathy among veterans. This transferable skill becomes a cornerstone for enhancing interpersonal relationships.

As veterans learn to recognize and respond to the emotions of their equine partners, they develop a heightened sense of empathy that positively impacts their interactions with peers, family, and the broader community.

10.  Positive Social Interactions:

Equine therapy creates a positive and interactive environment for veterans, fostering the development of healthier social skills. The shared experience of caring for and interacting with horses provides a common ground for positive social interactions.

Veterans learn to collaborate, communicate, and build connections, contributing to improved overall social functioning.

Real Stories of Veterans Transforming Through Equine Therapy

James, a 40-year-old Army veteran, once grappled with severe posttraumatic stress stemming from his service in Afghanistan. Beset by flashbacks, anger, and intermittent blindness, James faced a crumbling world where work, school, and family connections slipped away. His teenage daughter distanced herself, and James seldom ventured out. Frustration and fear led him to counseling.

Today, James, having regained control and vision, attributes his recovery to Equine Assisted Counseling with a horse named Duke. Duke, a perceptive companion with his own trauma history, aided James in identifying triggers and developing coping skills. This alternative therapy, exemplified by James’ transformation, holds immense potential for the millions of veterans suffering from emotional trauma, offering an accessible and stigma-free path to recovery.

The Future of Equine Therapy for Veterans: Promising Developments

In 2018, over 1.7 million veterans sought mental health treatment through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mental health specialty program (U.S. Department of Veterans Services, 2018). Despite this substantial number, research indicates that it encompasses only approximately 23-40% of veterans with mental health disorders.

While conventional treatments involve counseling and medication, additional primary interventions are often necessary due to various barriers or side effects (Arnon et al., 2020). This project aims to raise awareness about equine-assisted activities and therapy as an alternative for veterans, facilitating connections with equine therapy providers and related industry resources.

Equine-assisted activities and therapy have demonstrated significant benefits for veterans, positively impacting their mental health (Smith, 2019). As we envision the future of equine therapy for veterans, exciting developments are emerging. This transformative approach, uniting human and horse connections, is experiencing promising advancements with the potential to enhance the well-being of those who have served.

Ongoing research is delving deeper into therapeutic mechanisms, refining protocols, and exploring innovative applications. The growing recognition of equine therapy’s efficacy is leading to increased integration into mainstream mental health and rehabilitation practices. With a focus on accessibility and tailored interventions, the future holds expanded opportunities for veterans to leverage the healing power of equine therapy.

Getting Started: A Guide for Veterans Exploring Equine Therapy

Before scheduling your initial equine therapy session, it’s crucial to reflect on several factors:

1.    Timing:

Assess if you can commit adequate time to equine therapy, as sessions often occur in rural areas, potentially requiring a longer commute. If you’re in crisis, undergoing substance detox, or recovering from recent trauma or medical issues, it might not be the optimal time to start.

2.    Fear:

Considering that horses are sizable animals, individuals with significant fear or traumatic memories related to horses may find equine therapy challenging and possibly triggering.

3.    Cost:

Given the limited evidence and newness of equine therapy, health insurance plans may not cover it, resulting in potentially high out-of-pocket expenses.

4.    Accessibility:

Equine therapy might not be readily available, especially for those residing in urban areas. Assess the accessibility of providers before making a decision.

5.    Suitability:

Evaluate if equine therapy aligns with your therapeutic needs and preferences. Consider your comfort level with animals, especially horses, and whether the experiential nature of this therapy resonates with your goals.

6.    Provider Qualifications:

Research the qualifications and experience of equine therapy providers. Ensure they have proper certifications, adhere to ethical standards, and possess the expertise needed to guide you through the process safely.

7.    Therapeutic Goals:

Clearly define your therapeutic objectives. Whether you seek emotional healing, stress reduction, or personal growth, understanding your goals will help tailor the equine therapy experience to meet your specific needs.

8.    Preparation:

Familiarize yourself with what to expect during equine therapy sessions. Learn about the activities involved, safety protocols, and how the therapeutic connection with horses contributes to the overall process.


To sum up, we can say that equine-assisted services offer great benefits for our heroes who have served our nation wholeheartedly. Real stories, like James’, highlight the transformative impact of equine therapy, offering a promising alternative for those facing emotional trauma. It surely comes with some shares of challenges but by knowing how to get started and following the procedures suggested in this blog, veterans can reap the benefits from this impactful therapeutic journey.

Why Horses? Understanding the

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