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Horses Help Local Service Members with Combat-Related Stress Disorders

10:16 PM, Aug 24, 2011   |    comments
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GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Military members suffering from combat-related stress have a new therapy option.

Naval Hospital Jacksonville has teamed with PX Equine Enterprises in Green Cove Springs to develop a pilot program for post-deployed service members.

The therapy uses horses to improve emotional, psychological and social well-being of the participants.

"We all knew there was something wrong," said one participant who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but did not want to be identified.

"But it's a matter of, do you really want to deal with the consequence of identifying what's wrong or do you just want to deal with what you have to do on a day-to day basis?"

He enlisted shortly after 9/11, and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2007 after being deployed four years and losing four of his best friends.

"I've been through a lot of PTSD programs and this is the only one that's pretty much kept by attention," he said. "With the horses, they pretty much pick up on how you're feeling."

Tracy Hijmanowski, a deployment health center clinical psychologist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, said what started as a pilot program has become undeniably effective.

"They learn different things like communication, problem solving, compassion, intimacy, types of things that their war experiences have had an impact on," Hijmanowski said.

The participants are looking for help without judgement, and through their bond with the horses they're making strides toward recovery.

The service members work with StarrLee Heady of PX Equine Enterprises as a part of the 12-session pilot program.

Officials at NH Jax hope to combine the equine-assisted therapy with other therapies for a new, immersive day treatment program in 2012.

First Coast News

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