Farm to research equine therapy effects on boys with PTS effects
Touchstone Farm in Temple is the site of a research study on the effect of equine-facilitated psychotherapy on symptoms of post-traumatic stress in adolescent boys. Researchers from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., are partnering with Touchstone Farm and the Wediko School in Windsor. The Horses and Humans Research Foundation awarded the $50,000 grant to fund the study.
Megan Mueller of Tufts and Leslie McCullough of Washburn are the principal investigators for the research. Boo Martin, Executive Director of Touchstone Farm, and Winter Keeler, who is both Senior Clinical Supervisor at Wediko and Manager of Horse Power Therapeutic Horsemanship at Touchstone Farm, will implement the EFP sessions at the farm. A select group of Horse Power volunteers will participate in all the sessions, with each volunteer working one-on-one with a horse/client pair.
Five Wediko students, adolescent boys assessed to have symptoms of post-traumatic stress, will participate in 10 weekly EFP sessions that include both mounted and unmounted work with horses, while receiving psychotherapy at Wediko. A control group of five boys who also have symptoms of PTS will receive psychotherapy at Wediko but will not participate in the EFP sessions. Touchstone Farm will run multiple 10 week sessions so that a total of 30 boys will participate in equine-facilitated psychotherapy at the farm with corresponding control groups at Wediko.
“EFP has been shown to be effective in reducing children’s anxiety over attending therapy and in treating emotional and behavioral challenges,” says Mueller. “However, we need additional research on the efficacy of equine based psychotherapy in addressing the needs of youth who have experienced trauma to support evidence based practice in this field.”
The first EFP session begins in February. Throughout January, Touchstone Farm staff and volunteers will continue preparations for the research. This includes additional training for volunteers as well as training for the horses who will be paired with Wediko clients. Touchstone Farm has a large pool of riding and driving horses already trained in therapeutic horsemanship. The additional training will enable Martin and Keeler to select the horses who are most willing and able to partner with adolescent boys coming to grips with past trauma and help them move ahead.
Touchstone Farm, home of Horse Power and Pony Farm, is a non-profit educational and therapeutic organization that fosters a community of belonging for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.