Horses and Mental Health

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Horses and Mental Health

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    01-16-2013, 04:34 AM
Horses and Mental Health

So I've been thinking about some things lately. Warning, it gets a little sappy...

It's occurred to me lately that my relationship with horses is much more than "an expensive hobby", a phase (as many have hoped) or a form of recreation. In fact, it a huge contributor in helping me maintain my mental health and overall well-being.

As I continue to think about all the scary things in my not-so-distant future (ie. Learning to live with MS, saving up to buy property and going to law school), I've began to realize that instead of dismissing horses as just another nice-but-unnecessary expense, I should acknowledge the actual role they play in my life. Spending time riding and caring for horses nurtures my body and my mind, helps me deal with stress, challenges me. There's something about it I can't quite explain just feels GOOD. Something very beneficial to my success and happiness. Maybe it has something to do with partaking in a passion, but I swear that spending time with horses makes me a better person. I'm more honest, patient, straightforward, and loving, not to mention both physically and mentally stronger.

As a result, I've decided to make an effort not to forget this (as I sometimes do). Knowing these things about myself definitely changes my priorities a little bit.

I'm curious to hear about other's experiences concerning this topic. How does your relationship with horses affect your well-being?
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    01-16-2013, 05:02 AM
I get frustrated very easy. I tend to be VERY forward thinking and I tend to pile things up faster than I should. I don't even finish what I was doing previously before I move on to do something else.

Working with horses has taught me to stop. Like, literally stop. That I can't keep barging through and pushing and pushing. I have a couple examples.

I was working Chance and he had a slight tantrum which I attempted to correct him for. My correcting had done the piling up, because I had to be quick, I had to do it then and there and not delay. But I realized I was over stressed, breathing hard, and more emotionally out than calm. I probably even over corrected because of my frustrations. But I stopped, and I stood there. It was probably another five minutes before I moved on and asked for something else. I am very lucky that Chance is forgiving. He stood politely, kind of like how a kid does something to purposefully annoy someone, and when they get the response they wanted, act like a total angel. Yeah. That was him after, haha.

Another example is when I do side passing. I used to want to rush through it, but my instructors sister told me that rushing through won't do me any good because my signals are mixed, and my bodily language is poor. I tend to shrink, instead of get big. I try to deliberately be slow and thoughtful and "think" my actions now rather than just "do".

This has brought me many lessons in my life that I apply, and I'm so happy that I have what I have, and the "therapy" it applies.
JaphyJaphy likes this.
    01-19-2013, 01:29 PM
When I get stressed, my husband tells me to go and see "Dr. Koolio".

There is no question that the horses improve my physical and mental well-being. Maybe it is because horses are my passion, and maybe it is something else. I find my horses, especially Koolio, acts as a mirror of my soul. When I am anxious, he is anxious. As I relax, he relaxes. He is the ultimate bio-feedback mechanism both in the saddle and on the ground. If I want him to find a sense of balance, rhythm and relaxation under saddle, I must first do the same. If I want him to let go of his fears on the trail, I have to let go of those I have quietly waiting in the back of my own mind.

I am fortunate to be able to keep my horses in my back yard, where I can access a little bit of "magic horse breath" any time I need or want to. The daily requirements of feeding the horses, checking the fence, water, etc, and just managing our property ensures that I get some physical exercise every single day. This daily routine also keeps me much healthier than I was before I had my horses at home.

So, yes, horses do dramatically improve both your physical and mental well-being.
nvr2many and JaphyJaphy like this.
    01-19-2013, 03:38 PM
I could write a novel, lol.

Horses are my greatest stabilizer as well as one of my top 5 triggers. They have been the one constant in my life (I've owned Odie for 19 years), and the one thing that I'm fairly good at...when I apply myself. I have this tendency to get bored with something and not work that hard at it once it's newness has worn off and then get frusterated at myself. Horses have made me get more consistant in that manner. But it's an on going process I need to keep working on. I say that they are also one of my biggest triggers in that I get discouraged when I see that others don't have that problem, so I get beyond frusterated with myself and get stuck in that rut. To me it seems that consistancy is so easy for others, and so difficult for me.

For my daughter, I'm hoping they teach her not to flat out give up on herself so easily, to work through the discomfort to get the rewards. Basically, I'm trying to make sure she's not like me. I'm hoping they help her physically as well (if she can learn to push herself). She hasn't quite "grown into" herself yet and is quite awkward and doesn't have a lot of physical strength.
JaphyJaphy likes this.
    01-19-2013, 06:13 PM
Busysmurf, your daughter will grow into herself faster than you will expect. My daughter is coming up 18 and I am always amazed at how strong, patient, confident and persevering she is. I believed having and riding horses has made her the capable young woman she is today.
busysmurf likes this.
    01-19-2013, 07:56 PM
I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder- I get really depressed in the winter). Riding horses has really helped me deal with this. I make sure I get out to the stable often. The fresh air and being outside has helped immensely. It also ensures I have something exciting to look forward to.

Overall, horses help my mental health. They were the impetus for me losing weight, and I feel 10000x better since I started riding and taking care of myself.
    01-19-2013, 10:14 PM
When I go for extended periods of time without riding, my tension, anxiety and general crankiness increases dramatically. Then I ride and I realize "THAT'S what I've been missing this past week or so".

I can be in the absolute worst mood ever, but when I go to the barn and breathe in that beautiful smell of my horses (yes, I do sniff their necks ), and engross myself in cleaning and caring for them, something shifts in me and nothing seems that important anymore.
JaphyJaphy likes this.
    01-20-2013, 12:23 PM
I have Attention deficit disorder (ADD). Horses are the one thing in my life that give me drive, and a purpose. In every other aspect of my life, I am a mess but when I'm with my horses something just clicks - and I transform into someone who is calm and focused.

Growing up, my parents never recognized that there was something "off" about me...and I took a lot of flak for being "lazy", messy, a procrastinator, forgetful, a daydreamer and lacking in social skills. I was very withdrawn as a teen and young adult (even today I have trouble trusting people because I am concerned about being judged). The one constant in my life was horses. I grew up on the back of a horse and it was the one place I felt safe, the one place I felt free. Due to not having health insurance I am not currently on any medication, but just having my horses has allowed me to manage my condition much more effectively, to the point where (90% of the time) I forget that I am different from anybody else. :)
    01-20-2013, 12:38 PM
Even though horses can be expensive they are cheaper than paying for a psychologist. I had lived with an alcoholic for 17 years and with that came depression. Spending time with my horses lets me de-stress and have a little piece of happiness that I truely get from spending time with them. My ex would say that I'm addicted to them, but better a horse than alcohol or drugs I would say. Now that I am moving on, and starting a new life I know that things will get better for me, but knowing how they helped me through some pretty dark and terrible times when I didn't even want to get out of bed, but having to feed and going and seeing them always made me feel better. I will always have horses in my life one way or another. I had been thinking of selling one due to this split with my ex, but I met a man at my barn yesterday that had got rid of his mare during a split with his wife and he sure regretted in and encouraged me to do whatever I needed to keep them. Anyway, they are not just a silly hobby for me, and as we all know here, non-horsey people just don't get that. We are all very lucky that WE DO!
prairiewindlady likes this.
    01-21-2013, 11:29 AM
Originally Posted by Koolio    
Busysmurf, your daughter will grow into herself faster than you will expect. My daughter is coming up 18 and I am always amazed at how strong, patient, confident and persevering she is. I believed having and riding horses has made her the capable young woman she is today.
That's what I'm hoping. Running & jumping didn't really happen until she was around 4, and she wasn't able to ride her bike until she was 8.

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