For some traumatized veterans, the best therapy can be stroking a velvety nose

In the study, three or four veterans at a time spend 90 minutes with two horses and two staff members once a week for eight weeks, slowly learning to interact with and become comfortable with the animals and learning about themselves through them.

“The veterans feel that the horses are mirroring what they feel,” said Yuval Neria, a medical psychology professor at Columbia and the study’s other director. At the outset, “Both the horses and the vets kind of exhibit or even suffer from the same fear circuit-based behavior. They are both fearful, initially, they are both apprehensive, initially, they avoid being together initially, and over time they develop the ability to be together.”