Tuesday, August 20, 2019 -
Print Edition

Israeli couple helps PTSD patients through horses

Giora and Dr. Anita Shkedi pose with a horse used in therapy for PTSD patients at a horse farm in Castle Rock.

Giora and Dr. Anita Shkedi pose with a horse used in therapy for PTSD patients at a horse farm in Castle Rock.

As many soldiers return home from war they face an increasingly diagnosed brain trauma,  post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

PTSD can cause many war veterans lives’ to deteriorate so drastically that they cannot perform simple tasks.

PTSD can take a normal man and a happy family and alter everything in that household.

PTSD patients may find it hard to interact with the people they are closest to. In America alone, it is estimated that there are 500,000 veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD, and there are approximately another 500,000 undiagnosed.

The problem also occurs in Israel. On a per capita basis, more Israelis suffer from it than Americans because of the direct contact they have with many terrorist attacks.

In operation Protective Edge in Gaza during the summer of 2014, the Israeli army discovered a series of tunnels from the Gaza Strip leading into Israel to facilitate terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. Even the thought of this can cause trauma.

People with PTSD need help to begin to function again in society and in the home.

Dr. Anita Shkedi and her husband Giora knew that they needed a way to help patients with PTSD.

It hits very close to home for the both of them as Giora served in the Israeli Defense Forces, as did both of their sons.

They tried using horses therapeutically.

“The horses do really work, if the patient has enough time to ride them and can get the full treatment,” says Shkedi.

The treatment works in a special way. “It teaches the patient to care for the horse. Along with the calming of riding, when a person learns to care for the horse, they then learn how to care for other people. We want them to be able to start caring for their spouses, children and friends.”

The riding program began in Israel, but it has now expanded to the US.

In Israel the project was named INTRA, the Israel National Therapeutic Riding Assn.

INTRA has become a very large organization that has helped over 4,000 Israeli patients since its inception.

INTRA does not receive funding from the government; it all has to come from fundraising.

Shkedi received her PhD in medicine from Derby University in the UK.

She is not only involved in teaching the patient how to ride and care for the horse, but also one of the lead researchers in the organization.

Shkedi recently completed her first book, Traumatic Brain Injury & Therapeutic Riding. She is writing a second book on the subject.

One of the largest problems in trying to cure PTSD is that many of the veterans suffering from it do not know they have it, or won’t open up about it because they want to keep their jobs.

‘If we could just get them on the horse and keep them riding regularly for a along time then we would be able to cure them very easily,” says Shkedi.

INTRA has provided over 200,000 riding sessions with those suffering from PTSD.

In both the US and Israel war veterans are receiving this therapeutic treatment.

“The difference between our program and receiving standard therapy is that we don’t want to ask them so many questions. We put them on a horse, they begin riding, then after a while they open up and begin talking themselves.”

This is what Shkedi and her husband hope to accomplish with this program.

Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Leave a Reply