Horses and Moral Injury
At TRR we work with horses on the ground only. This is, in part, because we are an EAGALA Certified Military Service
Provider and EAGALA work is always on the ground (no riding). But, the other reason is that we know that going to war often results
in an injury to the moral core of our warriors - their very heart and soul. This is what Moral Injury is about. It is an existential
and/or spiritual crisis that arises when human beings are responsible for, or feel responsible for, taking a human life, witnessing
the taking of human life, or being unable to prevent the taking of human life.
Moral Injury is what happens to warriors who have been trained to override the intrinsic aversion to killing - necessary among war fighters for survival in combat. The difficulty is that it when human beings kill other humans, it feels like a violation of a moral code that we all live by. It is felt very deeply by many and is often not spoken about or explored, especially in traditional PTSD treatment.
Warriors whose Moral injury is not being addressed are not receiving adequate care.
Karl Marlantes, author of What It Is Like To Go To War, said it this way, “Killing someone without splitting oneself from the feelings that the act engenders requires an effort of supreme consciousness that, quite frankly, is beyond most humans. Killing is what warriors do for society, Then when they return home, society doesn’t generally acknowledge that the act it asked them to do created a deep split in the psyche, a psychological and spiritual weight most of them will stumble beneath the rest of their lives. Warriors must learn how to integrate the experience of killing, to put the pieces of their psyche back together again. For the most part, they have been left to do this on their own.”
We cannot allow our warriors to do this on their own, because the legacy of that strategy has resulted in an unrelenting high rate of suicide. People who feel they have done something terribly wrong, even if ordered to do so or if necessary for survival - theirs or their battle buddies - are sometimes left thinking they deserve punishment. They, at times, unfortunately - and tragically - punish themselves.
Working with horses who are at liberty, free to come and go, to approach a spiritually wounded warrior, or not - enables the horse’s instinctive, nonjudgmental and forgiving nature to tap into that morally injured part of the warrior that needs to be healed. We have repeatedly seen warriors connect to horses in ways they have not yet been able to connect to people.