Honour the Fallen, Help the Living

Can Praxis Equine

Can Praxis is designed for Veterans diagnosed with PTSD/OSI and their spouse/partner/family member. It provides an intense nine day program, divided into three phases each of which is three days long.


Doctors now recognize that PTSD / OSI is a physical injury as well as psychological condition; using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), radiologists have demonstrated that the brain injury is visible. The irony is that in everyday life the injury is invisible and is often discounted. “You’re not in a wheel chair, so you’re not injured.”

Of course, the reality is that the daily life of one with PTSD / OSI is in many ways turned upside down: reliving trauma while awake and nightmares while asleep cause anxiety, racing heart or sweating. People with PTSD / OSI avoid places, events or anything thing that reminds them of the trauma. They are easily startled. Depression, suicidal tendencies, hyper-vigilance are normal features of PTSD. So, too, are crisis and conflict. Marriage and family relationships suffer greatly.


Are spouses and family members be effected by the veterans’ PTSD? Spouses attending Can Praxis report that they also experience symptoms of PTSD. This is known as secondary PTSD. As the saying goes, ‘If you’re standing next to a puddle and someone throws a rock in, everyone gets splashed.’ So, spouses and children are often anxious, hyper-vigilant and experience other difficulties too. At Can Praxis, it becomes clear that the spouses are absolutely vital to the recovery of the veterans and that the spouses’ needs are of equal importance to the veterans’ needs.


Phase I

Attended by up to 6 couples, veterans and spouses (or close family member). Spouses are equal, always. The content is divided between:

1) A critically acclaimed mediation practice designed to promote the resolution of conflict between spouses

2) Equine Assisted Learning is a federally recognized equine discipline. Horses are animals of prey; they instinctively assess if other animals or people are friend or foe. The comfort level of the horse, as demonstrated by its body language, provides participants with instant and accurate feedback about themselves. The horse’s behavior is an invitation to have a conversation. Participants walk alongside the horse and do not ride.

Phase I is run from a private horse arena near Rocky Mountain House, AB.

Phase II

Attended by up to 10 veterans or 10 spouses who have attended Phase I (participants attend without their spouse; this provides opportunities to know others who are in a very similar situation and develop a nationwide network of support). Participants can attend Phase II months or years after attending Phase I.

Participants spend three days in central Alberta with an established and experienced horse outfitter, learning to ride and care for horses in a private, relaxed ranch setting. A debriefing by the camp fire each evening with Steve and Jim are times to recall lessons learned on Phase I and discuss how to continue using accumulated knowledge and experience. These three days are also an opportunity to understand, and be understood by, peers from all over Canada. Accommodation consists of small, basic but comfortable cabins for three people.

Phase III

Attended by up to 6 couples, veterans and spouses (or close family member) who are sufficiently stable in their relationship to achieve three days in the wilderness without disruptive conflict.


Couples who suffer the effects of PTSD /OSI experience increased crisis and conflict. All activities at Can Praxis are designed to reduce conflict and crisis by increasing couples’ ability to manage them with a proven, practical strategy.


The program is run by co-founder Steve Critchley, a 28-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who was deployed overseas numerous times. He is a certified mediator and has provided services for the Canadian and U.S. federal government as well as training programs in South Africa, Ghana, Milan, London, and Dubai. He is also an experienced horseman. Steve has been married to Patty for 36 years; they have two adult children.

Jim Marland, also a co-founder, is an Equine Assisted Learning facilitator and registered psychologist. He has over 40 years of experience in prisons (including a psychiatric centre for offenders), in treatment centres, and providing wilderness based corporate training for the 10 largest companies in the UK. He has travelled extensively: mountaineering, sailing, long distance overland journeys in remote parts of 40 countries. He has been married to Becky for 35 years and they have 6 adult children.


From the outset, the program has been studied by Dr. Duncan. His data about Can Praxis has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal see http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/14/1205.full.pdf+html?sid=ab41a7ff-0bd0-40c3-a692-5ed66a230c1e and the Canadian Military Journal see http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vol14/no2/page64-eng.asp

Dr. C. Randy Duncan has a background in educational psychology and works in the areas of applied measurement and program evaluation. Primary research interests are in instrument construction and validation for measuring the benefits of both equine assisted learning for at-risk populations and cultural interventions in the treatment of substance abuse. The various program evaluations undertaken have been mostly community-based participatory projects aimed at fostering partnerships and translating the information into action. Current evaluation work, funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, is focused on utilizing standardized measures for reporting global outcomes for the provinces’ Child and Youth Mental Health and Addiction Services. It is his expertise and research results that have helped others to understand the impact Can Praxis has on its participants.

The research clearly shows that participants benefit in the short term and results from the medium term are also promising; Dr. Duncan is conducting a follow up study to measure the longevity of the benefits. Phase II and III are also included in the study design.


Rachel…. Is CAF and volunteers her time….


A private Facebook page has been made for alumni as a means to provide sustainable peer support across the country. Previous participants connect and support each other in helpful, positive ways.


Wounded Warriors Canada is the National Funding Partner; this funding pays for flights (veterans and spouses come from all over the country), hotels, food, and programming costs. Veterans do not pay.


In addition to being reported in academic journals, Can Praxis has received significant interest from the Canadian media (newspapers, magazines, local and national TV) and is the subject of a chapter in a recently published book FIELD EXERCISES: How veterans are healing themselves through farming and outdoor activities by Stephanie Westlund Ph. D.


Individuals from the US, the UK, Australia and Israel have requested consultation from Can Praxis.


Couples living with the effects of PTSD / OSI face conflict and crisis as well as the usual psychological symptoms. At Can Praxis, participants learn, or re-learn, how to resolve conflict and crisis in a strategic, effective manner. They leave with helpful knowledge useful experience which provide realistic hope.





Donate Today!