It took decades for Jeannine McDonald to finally admit she was struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

When she did, that itself was devastating. The Air Force veteran said she tried everything — counseling, medication, acupuncture. But nothing seemed to help.

“I was at that point where I was numb to everything; I didn’t enjoy anything,” McDonald said. She had only ridden horses a few times as a child, but the magic of it had stuck with her.

When a friend asked her what she would choose if she could do anything, McDonald knew. “The only thing I could think of was to ride.”

As clinicians seek innovative ways to heal veterans struggling with PTSD, equine therapy has been growing in popularity.

It is still medically controversial — part of that reason being that there hasn’t been much data or research on it, especially with veterans. But a team at Columbia University in New York City has set out to change that.

The team is finishing up a yearlong study of veterans struggling with PTSD and the effects of horse therapy.

The Virginia facility where McDonald rides serves children with disabilities, such as autism or Down Syndrome, and has a separate focus on active-duty military and veterans. A partnership with a local military installation brings out active-duty riders twice a week. Many of them are struggling with substance abuse, depression or PTSD.