Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling, Quantitative Methods, and Special Education

First Advisor

Asner-Self, Ed. D, Kimberly


The wars in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) represent the most sustained American combat operations since the Vietnam War. A wealth of research has shown the frequency and intensity of exposure to combat experiences is positively correlated with risk for chronic PTSD and associated impairments in veterans, a “dose-response” continuum (Fischer, 2014; Hoge, Messer, McGurk, & Koffman, 2004; Maguen et al., 2015; Philips et al., 2017; Pitman, 2006; Ricks, 2004; Rona et al., 2014). Reported prevalence rates for symptoms of PTSD in OEF and OIF veterans vary, but researchers suggest 14% of treatment-seeking veterans and up to 21% of OEF and OIF veterans meet criteria for PTSD (Angkaw et al., 2013). The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DoD), community agencies, and private mental health providers strive to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Efforts have been made to reduce barriers to treatment by developing interventions more appealing to veterans. One such modality gaining traction and support is therapeutic riding (TR). TR teaches veterans about horsemanship, how to ride, and serves as a tool for connection, as well as, physical and emotional healing (Notgrass & Pettinelli, 2015). This study was designed to answer the following research question: How do OEF and OIF veterans diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD experience the use of TR as a tool for their recovery? The post-intentional phenomenology, was utilized to ascertain how four veterans participating in TR were changed by the experience. Intentionality promoted an understanding of TR through its emphasis on the connections made during their participation. Data was gathered using a whole-part-whole investigative approach, whereby, themes were explored separately then brought together as a whole (Vagle, 2014). The research question and sub-questions facilitated further understanding of TR and its utilization by OEF and OIF veterans in the domains of perceived personal change, social connection, mental and emotional wellbeing, and environment. There were eleven tentative manifestations of change and five influencing factors which emerged through data discovery. Constructs were illuminated and further explored. The exploratory research implications seemed to support previous findings, suggesting TR had positive effects on PTSD symptom recovery for OEF and OIF veterans.




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