Comprehensive Study and Clinical Results from Man O' War Project Published

Sgt Matt Ryba with an OTTB | Courtesy Man O' War Project

Columbia University Irving Medical Center has published the third and final paper detailing the clinical findings and results of the Man O' War Project, the ground-breaking research on equine-assisted therapy (EAT) as an effective treatment for veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This critical paper, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, focuses on the important clinical results of the open trial undertaken by Dr. Prudence Fisher and Dr. Yuval Neria, principal investigators for this first-of-its-kind university study.

“Our findings that both PTSD and depressive symptoms significantly improved are very exciting because we demonstrated that our treatment is a viable alternative or supplemental treatment for those who suffer from PTSD,” said Fisher. “Importantly, the veterans liked the treatment and completed the protocol, which is not the case for many other PTSD treatments where dropout rates are high. Finally, because we created a manual for the protocol, the first well-specified treatment manual for any EAT treatment, it can be taught to others in the field.”

In addition to the clinical paper, an initial paper was published in Military Medicine in 2020, which reported on the development by Columbia University of a scientifically based group treatment protocol using EAT for veterans with moderate to severe PTSD. This pilot program resulted in the very first clinically developed EAT-PTSD treatment manual which was then used for the large open trial–the subject of the newly published paper described above.

Fortifying the very positive clinical results are the MRI findings, the subject of the second MOW paper recently published in the medical journal Human Brain Mapping Feb. 5, 2021. These findings were based on state-of-the-art technology utilized to examine changes in brain regions key to fear and emotional processing. The Columbia team specifically analyzed structural (gray matter) changes and changes in connectivity between brain regions, with the MRI data showing remarkable results.

This vital research, now published in three noted scientific journals, proves with both clinical and neurobiological results that the Man O' War protocol is an effective treatment to help veterans suffering with PTSD return to happier, more productive lives. Future phases of the Project will allow for the advancement, distribution and mainstreaming of the Man O' War protocol. To that end, the Man O' War Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center is being created with the following initial goals:

  • training others in the use of the protocol both in the United States and abroad
  • distributing the Man O' War treatment manual to the EAT field at large
  • adopting the protocol for use with children, adolescents and other groups (a pilot study for youth with anxiety issues is currently underway at Columbia)
  • undertaking a randomized control study (RCT) to further validate the open clinical trial results
  • partnering with the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and the Thoroughbred retirement community to place more retired Thoroughbred “veterans” in MOW-EAT programs throughout the country.

Click here for a comprehensive introduction to the program, complete with video; click here for earlier findings; here for personal reflections from Sue Finley; and here for links to a docuseries about the project.

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