Horses Help America's Heroes

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Researchers in Central Florida are among the first in the country to establish a formal center to study the benefits of horse therapy on soldiers with PTSD. Here are details on how time with gentle giants may have a big impact. (KFSN)

Dogs, cats, and even birds have all been specially trained as therapy animals. Now, researchers in Central Florida are among the first in the country to establish a formal center to study the benefits of horse therapy on soldiers with PTSD. Here are details on how time with gentle giants may have a big impact.

Francesca "Frankie" Langston had never been around horses until recently. Now she and Brooks are building a bond.

Langston told Ivanhoe, "If you say, 'Hey Brooks,' and he looks up, he knows you're here."

In 2004, Langston was a Marine, serving in Iraq. She still gets emotional thinking about her deployment and her return to civilian life in 2005.

Langston detailed, "Feels like you're dropped out here by yourself to be honest. You have a unit, a platoon that you're connected with. Then you're out here by yourself."

Manette Monroe, M.D., MEd, an assistant professor of pathology at University of Central Florida College of Medicine, is an expert in equestrian therapy and PTSD. She said horses have a lot in common with traumatized people.

Dr. Monroe continued, "They're hypervigilant. They're always watching for danger; always watching for something to happen around them. When a horse hears a loud noise around them, they jump. For a veteran with PTSD, when they hear a loud noise, they're going to have the same reaction." (Read Full Interview)

Dr. Monroe and her colleagues are studying the impact of horses on soldiers. So far, more than 70 veterans have gone through a formal, ten-week program to retrain the brain to stay calm.

"Because the veterans want that interaction with the horse they learn to self soothe," explained Dr. Monroe.

Langston said, "It's helped me step out and not be in my house in a comfortable zone. Grooming. Riding. It's all good. It makes my heart happy."

Dr. Monroe said a significant number of the 70 soldiers in the research study reported improvements in depression symptoms and improved interpersonal relationships following the ten-week horse therapy sessions in conjunction with medication and other therapies.

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