Horses and Humans Research Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to Principal Investigator, Dr. Laurie McDuffee and her team from Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island. The purpose of this project, Psychophysiological effects of Equine-assisted therapy on horses and in veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is to explore the efficacy of equine facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) on human-horse dyads through changes in measures of stress hormones and PTSD symptoms.
Building on previous research, this study will explore the impact of an 8-week therapy program that partners horses with veterans diagnosed with PTSD to alleviate stress. Researchers will collect data from humans and horses that measure stress using both physical (i.e. cortisol, oxytocin, heart rate data, and standardized assessment) and standardized psychological tests. Together these measures will enable the researchers to better understand how the horse-assisted therapy program influences the recovery of veterans diagnosed with PTSD and related mental health symptoms (i.e. anxiety and depression). Sixteen veterans will receive 8-weeks of therapy (once per week) consisting of grooming and leading a horse under the direction of a registered psychologist. Self-reported information about PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and depression will be assessed at the start of the program, after week 4 of the program, at the end of the program, and two months following the program.
Saliva and blood samples will be taken from veterans and horses during each session. Analysis will compare information collected at each point in the therapy program. This study will be unique in that data will be collected from humans and horses at the same time to better understand the human-horse relationship during therapy. Visit www.horsesandhumans.org to view the award winning application and other HHRF funded research projects.