Multi-Site Psychophysiological Analysis of Equine Assisted Healing in Combat Veterans and First Responders
Ellen Kaye Gehrke, Michael P. Myers, Sarah Mendez, Blair Mckissock, Jennifer Lindsley, Paul Tontz

Equine assisted therapy has proven to be a successful treatment for combat veterans suffering from symptoms of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This study compared the fidelity between differing facilities implementing the same heart-based 8-week equine-assisted program on participants. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was measured to evaluate the balance of the autonomic nervous system as an indicator of physiological health and well-being. The positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS) was used to track participants self-report of emotional and mental well-being. HRV improved individually and as a group progressively from week to week. The average low frequency/high frequency (LF/HF) ratio significantly decreased by 33.0% (F = 9.09, P = 0.003). The PANASresults revealed reducedPTSD symptoms as the average positive affect score significantly increased by 10.1% (t = -6.11, P = 0.0005). The magnitude of increased HRV and affect was not significantly different between the sites. These results indicated that protocols can be implemented and scalable at multiple sites with differing quality of horses, facility features, and secondary instructors. Horses at a horse rescue site facility contributed to healing in veterans and first responders similar to that as a facility incorporating industry accreditation standards.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijhs.v7n4a1