We all seem to take for granted the fact that horses time and time again have been there for their owners; moving from stable to barn, taking them away from their newly acquired stable mates, even changing owners from time to time. But has anyone taken the time to consider what effect that could have on the horse itself?
Horses seem to go on and accept anything that we put them through, but the truth here is that the horse is greatly affected by all of that change; much more than most people realize. First and foremost, horses don't do change easily. Life for them is based on consistency as well as their total dependency upon the human being for its existence and they do not understand why there has to be so much change all of the time. It was through watching various horses and how they reacted to all of the above mentioned situations that made me wonder if horses could suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What was discovered was quite clear and that it has been the basis of many clinical studies concerning horses and their ability to suffer from PTSD. The findings were quite clear, horses can be affected in various ways that do categorize them as PTSD cases. The main factor that came out of these studies is the fact that horses do not have the same level of cognitive skills that people do, and being lower in the area of cognitive skills makes it much harder for a horse to manage mentally in any situation where there is a much higher level of emotional decision involved.
One other area that comes to mind, that makes the horse a higher candidate for PTSD, is that the horse is constantly aware of their surrounding and what is going on around them. Being able to communicate among themselves comes from this natural ability of constant awareness and at the same time keeps track of the humans that are around them. Here open the door, just as it does for the combat soldier or abused child that allows for the foundation of the symptoms of PTSD to be built upon. It could be an action that is taken against them and they feel that it is not necessary or it could even be an event that they witness that might have happened to another horse.
Whenever the problem of PTSD is discussed, be it human or equine, you have to remember it all comes from the mind; it could be a memory, a sound, something they smell, or even something that they have seen. All of these are known as "triggers" and be all that is necessary to activate the PTSD problem, there is never any logical answer once that the process is set into motion.
Horses that suffer from PTSD can be helped, just as clinical research programs with people are proving; in fact the US Military is doing a massive research program, on the east coast of the US, with returning warriors that involves the use of "Low Level Light Therapy" and it is showing extremely positive results. The same non-invasive technology is being applied to horses with similar and lesser problems already. Low Level Light Therapy results within the equine care field have progressed at a very rapid pace and is being used with additional modalities to help horses with all levels of injuries and ailments.
This is the work that "New Wave Therapy" is doing by working with various horses, including PTSD horses, and having great success with their clients. They have what they call the "New Wave Therapy Program" which is a gentle body-based, non-invasive modality for your equine while at the same time "Inviting Change Rather Than Forcing It".