There has been some exciting research happening at the Equine Science Center! You may remember I have talked about a research study being conducted with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and equine assisted activities (EAA) in the past. Well, the results are finally in and they are exciting!
This study was the work of Dr. Ellen Rankins, who just defended her dissertation and took place over the past two years. I’m going to share some of the key highlights with you. You can be sure the full results will be published in the future, so check back in if you’re interested in learning more.
Let’s dive in! The really cool part of this study is that data were collected from both the horses and humans in the study. There were lots of measurements taken during the lessons as the horses and veterans were together. These lessons occurred once a week for eight weeks and lasted for thirty minutes. During this time, the veterans learned to groom their horse, which they did at the start of every lesson (Now, that sounds relaxing!), and communicate with their horse through activities such as leading and long lining. So, what were the key findings during the lessons? Well, it turns out the horses working with the veterans were less stressed than their counterparts which stayed in a temporary stall in the arena during the sessions. This conclusion was made based on the behavioral markers of stress recorded during the study and the changes in plasma cortisol concentrations. The human-horse interaction also became more positive over time based on a self-report questionnaire the veterans completed each week.
In addition to all those measures taken during the lessons, the researchers also collected data from the veterans before and after the equine weeks of lessons. These data were compared to data collected from a group of veterans who were placed in a wait-listed control group. These participants also got to work with the horses, but this occurred after their post-testing time point. These types of controls are important in research as they allow the researchers to determine if the changes recorded are due to the intervention or other factors. Decreases in symptoms of PTSD were only found in the group that participated in EAA, which is exciting!
I told you there were some cool results! Do you agree now? I can’t wait to keep you posted on future research that happens at the Equine Science Center. Being around all of these cool researchers and hearing their conversations is always fun! Maybe you can come join our research team if you decide to pursue a degree at Rutgers. You never know, maybe I’ll be writing about your research project one day!
Until Next Time!
P.S. Want to watch Dr. Rankins talk about her awesome project? Check it out here!