Document Type

Critically Appraised Topic

Publication Date

2011

Clinical Scenario

The profession of occupational therapy has new potential to reach out to the post war veteran population nationally in a ground-breaking way. Countless soldiers have been wounded both mentally and physically due to active war duty and often find themselves struggling to return to a civilized life after their service. Equine facilitated therapy, or hippotherapy, is one promising intervention strategy that may be beneficial to the wounded warrior population. Hippotherapy has been utilized for people with various conditions to help improve quality of life through the use of a horse. Horses can provide limitless therapeutic assistance to people in need. Hippotherapy utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program that can be implemented by an occupational, physical or speech-language therapist. Equine facilitated therapy can expand to improve psychological and emotional functioning as well. It is necessary to look at the effects of equine facilitated therapy to understand possible benefits that could be applied to the wounded warrior population. The research used for this critically appraised topic primarily focuses on the psychological effects when utilizing a horse for therapy intervention. The majority of the research focused on adolescents with severe behavioural or emotional deficits.

Clinical Question

What are the effects of equine facilitated therapy on post-war veterans?

Clinical Bottom Line

Results from the found research indicate that psychological impairments can lead to decreased functional ability and suggest that therapy with the use of an animal can lead to improvements. There is a limited amount of research concerning equine facilitated therapy and its effects on psychological well being. Despite the lack of research, equine facilitated programs for wounded warriors are being implemented by many therapeutic horseback riding facilities across the United States as many notable benefits have been identified by numerous veterans. Occupational therapists with their skills of activity analysis and therapeutic use of self can utilize the horse as a therapeutic intervention for veterans who are suffering both emotionally and physically to facilitate an overall better quality of life.

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