Horses and anxiety - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 01-24-2020, 05:07 PM Thread Starter
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Horses and anxiety

I was reading a book last night that mentioned anxiety, and it made me think about how I used to have a lot of anxiety. I feel like having horses has made a lot of that go away. Is it because I’m actually more relaxed now? I really do enjoy spending time with my horses, even when they are being difficult. I find it very calming, and it also makes me be a lot more present in the moment: I am doing more “being” and am less focused on “doing.” Sometimes I just go out in their pasture and stand with them and just exist.

Or is it because my anxiety now has a place to focus (Moonshine’s stifles; Pony’s back; Teddy’s, well, everything)? So my once free-floating anxiety now has a concrete home and doesn’t just float around and infect everything.

Or maybe my anxiety is still there, but I had to push it way down in order to be a calming presence for Teddy, who of course has anxiety issues of his own?

On the other hand, I know that horses, at least riding horses, causes a lot of anxiety to some people. Because, honestly, it’s scary, especially when you’re a beginner or you’re getting on a horse you don’t know very well, or it’s a thundery day and all the horses are “up.”

What about you guys? Do horses make you less anxious? More anxious? Neither?

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post #2 of 23 Old 01-24-2020, 11:30 PM
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Must be less anxious in my case but I'm not sure I'd have more anxiety if horses weren't in my life. I've always been more of I'll clean up afterwards if need be sort of a person instead of a worry and plot out all possible outcomes sort.

R.I.P. JC 5/19/85 - 12/9/14. You made my life better.
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post #3 of 23 Old 01-24-2020, 11:42 PM
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I'd say less did for no other reason than exercise is good stress reduction.

Except some horses can sure increase my stress until we get a few things sorted out.
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post #4 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 01:28 AM
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I would not say I am an anxious person in general - with or without horses. But I am a very mentally active person. I would absolutely say that horses are a place for me to focus my mental energy in a positive way. This is definitely beneficial, because if I let my mental energy float around without purpose for too long, I will start to get anxious and even depressed - keeping busy keeps me happy, and horses are a rewarding way to do so.

It might not make much sense to others, but I feel that I have a certain level of mental energy and certain (separate) level of physical energy. I used to work a very physical job that took little to no thought, so I'd come home and my brain would be racing even though my body was ready to quit. On the other hand, if I was at college for a long day, I'd come home with my brain ready to quit but my body still energized. What I love about horses is I use both my mental and physical energy, so I don't come home with unspent energy (which is very good for my body and mind). I feel great when I'm more balanced and busy in both ways.
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post #5 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 08:28 AM
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For the first year, which was not long ago, every single ride began with trepidation and anxiety, which shortly segued into happy relaxed. Since then, rides begin and stay relaxed with exception of a momentary scared or worried horse.


Now the only anxiety I'm aware of is about Hondo's health. Otherwise, each time my eyes fall upon him, all troubles seem to mostly just melt away. And to some extent, this happens when I look at ANY horse.


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post #6 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 09:29 AM
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I have moderately severe clinically diagnosed anxiety (mixed with some depression) and horses are one of my "treatments" that I absolutely need to be at my healthiest. Being at the barn is calming (for the most part), when I'm riding my mind doesn't really have a chance to wander to the million other things I'd typically be worried about, and just going to the barn in general gets me out of the house to keep my mind and body active on something productive.

My anxiety does also get in the way of my riding. I'm more likely to be hesitant when I'm trying to get into canter or start to go fast, I tense up a lot and tip forward, I have to very actively be firm with horses or they'll tend to take advantage of me being overly gentle/timid. But - I'm working on all these things, and all riders have personal challenges.

Horses are fantastic for most people with anxiety (as long as the people like horses, of course!)
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post #7 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 09:43 AM Thread Starter
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Interesting. I think I'm like @Aprilswissmiss in that it's not like I'm tempermentally a really anxious person, it's more like my brain is always running and running, and I'm always thinking about what-ifs and possibilities, and that can lead to anxiety. My husband was always telling me I should meditate, and I was like, "No way, no time, not sitting around thinking about nothing." But I noticed pretty quickly that when I was with horses I went into this zone where I was just doing (and now, just being), not thinking. Don't get me wrong, I would think about it plenty afterwards (Why did this happen, how could I have prevented that, how could I do that other thing better, what was the horse thinking in that situation), but when I was out there, that part of my brain just shut off. Even just shoveling manure, that part of my brain shuts off.

I mentioned this to my husband (that I think I have less anxiety now) and he said that from his perspective it's not so much anxiety, but I've just become a lot more relaxed and not as likely to get upset over things. He said he had definitely noticed this in the last year or so.

Now I'm wondering if I can figure out how to bill my horses to my insurance company ("See, I don't need medication or therapy, just horses!" They provide exercise also!"). LOL. If I didn't have to worry about paying for their board, I think what little lingering anxiety I have would disappear.

ETA: perhaps somewhat related is that I think having Teddy has made me a kinder, more empathetic person. He's so sweet and tries so hard, but has so many issues. I really had to work to understand where he was coming from, and to treat him as he was and not as I wished he was, and I think that has translated to how I treat humans as well.
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post #8 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Aprilswissmiss View Post
I would not say I am an anxious person in general - with or without horses. But I am a very mentally active person. I would absolutely say that horses are a place for me to focus my mental energy in a positive way. This is definitely beneficial, because if I let my mental energy float around without purpose for too long, I will start to get anxious and even depressed - keeping busy keeps me happy, and horses are a rewarding way to do so.

It might not make much sense to others, but I feel that I have a certain level of mental energy and certain (separate) level of physical energy. I used to work a very physical job that took little to no thought, so I'd come home and my brain would be racing even though my body was ready to quit. On the other hand, if I was at college for a long day, I'd come home with my brain ready to quit but my body still energized. What I love about horses is I use both my mental and physical energy, so I don't come home with unspent energy (which is very good for my body and mind). I feel great when I'm more balanced and busy in both ways.
Very eloquent and accurate. I too am this way.

Sometimes, brainless jobs are refreshing to a weary brain. But after a while, the brain resists and I must use it...

Being with the horses puts me in a state that I try to continue, but not always successful.

When something goes wrong with them, then I am on full alert and focused, so that does increase the anxiety. Money and horses are generally in an inverse relationship, and that too, increases anxiety.

Non horse people don't understand that stress. Can't say how many times people have told me to "Just get rid of the horses". Or I could cut off my arm; not sure which would hurt more...
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post #9 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 11:51 AM
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As a generally anxious person, horses would manifest anxiety, but its never the horses themselves. My anxiety when riding was always centered more around not being able to have to my horse do what I wanted, being a failure, letting down my horse, ect. Its also largely Dependent on the barn and training environment I'm in at the time. I changed barns, but that didn't solve my anxiety, it still appeared in other places like work where I'd regularly be freezing up and panicking.
After some therapy and starting adhd medication, my anxiety levels are almost 0 everywhere.
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post #10 of 23 Old 01-25-2020, 01:21 PM
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In my life I had different times when I had some very stressful situations and a lot of painful choices which lead to a lot of anxiety, but I could go out if I had the time and just spend time with the horse(s) and relax and be a normal person for a while. It sure did me a lot of good to be able to "escape" for a bit.

I wouldn't say I suffer from anxiety or depression in normal circumstances tho'
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