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Equine-assisted Therapy

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Veteran on a horse being led down a path on Fort Meyer as part of a Therapeutic Horseback Riding

Veteran on a horse being led down a path on Fort Meyer as part of a Therapeutic Horseback Riding

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Several Polytrauma Veterans who receive their care from the Washington DC VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) are taking to the trails on horseback as part of their recovery. DCVAMC's Recreation Therapy Service has been using therapeutic horseback riding since 2008 to help improve the quality of life for Veterans suffering from a variety of injuries. Currently, the riders are participating in the Ft. Myer Caisson Platoon Therapeutic Riding Program.

Therapeutic horseback riding, also known as "equine assistive therapy", has helped patients physically and mentally. According to DCVAMC Recreational Therapist, Lucile Lisle, equine assistive therapy is beneficial on many different levels.

"Riding gives the patients a sense of well-being and independence while strengthening the muscles and improving balance and circulation," Lisle said. The natural motion of the horse provides physical stimulation that strengthens leg and core muscles, and helps improve balance and coordination. The riders at Fort Myer don’t use saddles so they can better "feel" the horse underneath them. Lisle says the bond created between the horse and rider provides opportunities for a special connection and trusting relationship. “Horses help the riders reconnect with the world," Lisle said.

Vincent Short, a participant in the therapeutic riding program, says the program helps him with depression. "It keeps it at bay, it's an outlet." Ultimately, the patients work towards their goals as part of the personalized recreation therapy program which includes greater awareness of resources in the community and improved independence in the community.

The primary purposes of Recreational Services are to provide recreational resources and opportunities in order to improve health and well-being. Therapeutic Recreation professionals at DCVAMC are trained and certified, registered and/or licensed to provide Therapeutic Recreation. Should you have further questions, please contact Lucile Lisle, CTRS, Polytrauma Recreation Therapist, 202-745-8000, ext.7618.