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Data suggests equine-assisted learning helps veterans with PTSD; program hopes for expansion

A local program that helps Canadian veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by working with horses is hoping new data will show how effective their methods are.

Can Praxis in Rocky Mountain House has been in operation for a year where the horses are used to help soldiers with anxiety, behavioural issues and problem-solving.

Co-Founder Steve Critchley is praising a new study in the Canadian Military Journal, which said the model is providing valuable help not only to the veterans, but their families as well.

“If they’re carrying a lot of angst or aggression with them, they see it, the horses won’t cooperate very well,” he said. “So they are learning how to within themselves, find a way to relax, to calm down, to be able to communicate effectively.”

After just under 100 veterans took part in the program this past year, Critchley is hoping they will be able expand thanks to the study’s findings and they are planning to do similar work this year in Ontario.

“This study points out rather specifically for the first time, to all those that hold the federal purse strings that yes, the program does in fact provide real-time relief for PTSD,” he said. “Not just for veterans, but for families and their spouses as well.”

Critchley said one example of the work is a veteran, who would stay indoors all day and not interact with people and after going through the program, was able to take his family to Orlando for Christmas.

The author of the study was Dr. Randy Duncan of the University of Saskatchewan.