Fearless Filly Gets To The Heart of PTSD in Innovative Treatment With Veterans

By Kathryn King Johnson, M.Ed.

Medicine Horse Program and Veterans Peace of Mind Project, both based in Boulder, Colorado, announce an exciting new collaboration, called "Fearless Victory."

Veterans Peace of Mind Project helps soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), providing mindfulness meditation programs as a psychological tool for dealing with trauma. Medicine Horse Program also uses mindfulness based techniques in equine-assisted psychotherapy. Using horses as co-facilitators, therapists help soldiers connect in relationship with each other and the horses.

"The wild horses help me to open up. The more I open up, the more they connect with me. It spirals outward, and I start opening up more with people in my day to day life," said John, a Viet Nam vet.

Most of the mustangs at Medicine Horse, caught recently on the range, are hypervigilent, with a strong flight instinct, and an aversion to being touched.

"The symptoms are the same as PTSD," one veteran said, "When I got home from the war, I didn't want anyone to touch me. "

As the horses learn to trust humans, the veterans see real results. In the process, they learn to trust the horses and begin to heal as well.

An astonished veteran exclaimed at the progress of a mustang named Mama, "She is not the same horse we worked with a month ago. If Mama can heal so quickly, so can we. She gives us hope."