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Bergen County study uses therapy horses to treat PTSD

Experts say that PTSD affects 1 in 5 veterans

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Most people say that a dog is ‘Man’s Best Friend’, but medical experts from Columbia University and a local equestrian center say that horses could be provide an equally important service to veterans.

Columbia University is partnering with the “Man O’War Project” to conduct the first university-led clinical research study to test the effectiveness of equine therapy to treat veterans with PTSD.

“The thing that this treatment doesn’t do is focus on the trauma, it’s on regulating your mood, recognizing your feelings and communicating clearly,” said Dr. Prudence Fisher, a member of a team of experts participating in the study taking place at the Bergen County Equestrian Center.

“We work with four veterans in most of our sessions,” said Bonnie Malajian, a licensed clinical social worker working with the Man O’War Project. “The priority is that we keep veterans safe both emotionally and physically, and we work the sessions where we guide the veterans to work with the hoses on the ground, no riding.”

The study has recruited 20 veterans with clinically diagnosed PTSD so far. Participants undergo 8 weeks of therapy sessions where assessments are conducted before, during and after therapy to examine what type of progress was made.

The study, which is funded by the Earle Mack Foundation is free of charge, is not limited to those who live in New Jersey, and is looking for more participants. If you are a veteran who suffers from PTSD and are interested in the program, you can visit MOWProject.org for more information.

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