Equine therapy program for veterans with PTSD gets historic donation

Can Praxis uses horses to help Canadian Forces members and their families recover from the experiences of war and repair their relationships. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

A program dedicated to providing equine-assisted therapy to help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and operational stress injuries has received a helping hand from another Canadian charity.

On Monday, Can Praxis founders Steve Critchley, a 28-year veteran and mediator, and Jim Marland, a registered psychologist, received a cheque for $150,000 from Wounded Warriors Canada – the largest-ever donation made by Wounded Warriors to any one program in the country.

Wounded Warriors, founded in 2006, is a veteran’s charity focusing primarily on the mental health of wounded troops and reservists.

Can Praxis uses horses to help Canadian Forces members recover from the experiences of war and repair their relationships with family members.

The program, which operates on a ranch in Alberta, works with small groups of soldiers diagnosed with an Operational Stress Injury (OSI) – including depression, anxiety and PTSD – and their family members.

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Using horses as a training aid, the three-day program trains veterans to manage conflict, foster effective communication skills and reconnect with their family members.

The program uses horses for a variety of reasons. “They’re a herd animal,” said Critchley. “Horses understand the need for social interaction.” Being prey animals, horses are also hyper-vigilant, said Critchley. “The horses can pick up on emotions and feelings.”

Because they react to human body language, Critchley said the horses give the program leaders clues into what is going on with the veterans and how they are communicating.

“With a horse, if you come on too strong and aggressive, it will take off. We show them through exercises, that if they approach things differently the horse will come back, because the horse will believe that [they’re] worthwhile to trust and respect,” said Critchley, adding that these lessons also apply to how they interact with their family.

Can Praxis covers the full cost for veterans and their families to attend the three-day program, including travel, housing, food and all related expenses.

Critchley said veterans can face significant financial challenges when re-entering civilian life, which is why it is so important that the program come at no cost to the veterans.

The money donated Monday will go toward continuing and expanding the equine-assisted therapy program.

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For more on Can Praxis, watch the video below: Hope Reins

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