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Veterans’ experiences of natural horsemanship : a phenomenological investigation Grimes, Katie Nicola


Equine-based interventions aimed specifically at assisting veteran populations are growing in popularity. While the research into the efficacy of equine therapy is limited, the emerging evidence indicates a trend in the direction of beneficial outcomes (Hoagwood, Acri, Morrissey, & Peth-Pierce, 2017; Kendall et al., 2015; Staudt & Cherry, 2017). By investigating the human-horse connection from the lived experiences of those involved, can lead to a better understanding of how the human-horse connection may translate into therapeutic gains. The purpose of this interpretative phenomenological study was to explore the experiences and meaning-making of veterans engaging with horses in the context of natural horsemanship (NH). By utilizing NH that focuses on horses’ natural behaviour and herd instincts, the aim is to improve understanding of how learning to communicate with horses in its most natural form can enhance understanding of the potential healing arising from the human-equine connection, and how this may be of therapeutic benefit to veterans. Five veteran participants interested in working with horses to assist with operational stress injuries took part in the study. This study employed a focus discussion group, a personal account, and a semi-structured in-depth individual interview. Five major themes emerged from the data analysis including: the authentic relationship, active awareness, the role of the trainers, horse appeal, and away from the yard. This study contributes to the development and delivery of equine interventions, rooted in the fundamentals of the human-equine bond, potentially offering an alternative or adjunct path to healing.

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