It’s been called battle shock, shell shock, and combat fatigue. No matter what you call it, post-traumatic stress disorder is a real and threatening issue for many American veterans, but some are finding hope in the saddle.
Physiological damage suffered from violent events during war or peace time has been linked to mental conditions like anxiety and depression, flashbacks, and hyperarousal, all symptoms of PTSD. For those with the condition, the battle often continues in civilian life. Some, sadly, turn to drugs and alcohol; others find respite in more constructive means, like education, art, or public service.
The methods used to treat PTSD are in no short supply, and vary in effectiveness. For those participating in equine therapy, however, comfort comes in the form of a four-legged friend.
Veterans like Retired Marine Kevin Sakai understand the benefits of this breed of therapy. Sakai, who’s been paired with a former race horse named Clayton, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before coming home to a PTSD diagnosis. Working with horses helps him stay grounded and in control of his emotions.
“There is something peaceful about being around the horses,” he told CBS News in 2016. “It’s just really relaxing.”