Horses can be an unconventional way to help heal emotional distress and disorders.
Hello August! There is something about the month of August that always feels like we start a new beginning. Perhaps, it is because summer is coming to an end, and kids are going back to school. Maybe it is because fall horse shows start to ramp up, and the last shows of the season have riders preparing to finish the year strong.
Either way, August usually closes out a slower time of year when families and kids return from vacationing. Personally, I have a lot of excitement for the coming months. I will be transitioning my young horse, Kevin, home soon. With every ride, I feel I am regaining strength and confidence in the saddle, and my ground work skills are finally clicking and coming all together. I remember my older horse, Gage, when he was seven, and he was nowhere near as consistent or steady as Kevin. This has me excited for my future with Kevin and grateful that I trusted my gut instincts with this horse and gave him a chance to show me his full potential while in training.
This last half of the year is going to be one I have been dreaming about for probably four years. It is hard to retire a horse due to injury or illness like I had to do. I knew I was going to give my older horse, Gage, a long and happy life whether I could ride him or not. I was not expecting a forced retirement when he was only 16. I put so many years into Gage, I got him when he was four turning five. I trained him completely, from hacking in open fields, to jumping, to even ground driving. I always wanted to turn him into a carriage horse when he was a senior, but he had to retire completely from all work. It was hard to lose that access to riding and to see your heart horse become yard art. I will admit, he is the most beautiful yard art I have ever seen. Yet, I have missed having a riding horse that I can jump on and forget the stresses of the day.
Riding has always been therapeutic for me, and not having that for the last six years has been really hard. Now, I feel I have a piece of my heart back with Kevin, and the realization of having him home and riding him multiple times a week has made my heart happy and fulfilled as an equestrian. I am looking forward to the physical benefits of being in the saddle at least three to five times a week, but mostly the mental benefits. Winston Churchill was correct when he said, “ No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.” Riding has always rejuvenated my soul and heart, and it gives me such an appreciation for the gift that horses are to me, my family and to society.
This month’s cover story by Alicia Johnson takes a closer look at Equine Assisted Therapy and Services and how horses have healing powers. The therapy and healing horses offer to people of all ages, from physical and emotional health issues and disorders, to addressing daily stress, anxiety and depression that affect all people, has been growing throughout communities.
We as equestrians know and understand how horses just make us feel good. What I ask of you is to help spread that with others outside our equine community. If you know someone who is struggling with day-to-day life, family illness, addiction, depression, or even overcoming physical ailments or trauma, share your personal experiences with horses with them, and tell them about equine assisted therapies and different places throughout our region that offer physical and mental health equine therapies.
We will be publishing a list of certified equine therapy programs on our website in August. This can serve as a directory for anyone in need. I know, as I navigate through having elderly and sick parents and the grief of losing my own brother to depression and addiction, how difficult and ugly life can be at times. What I also know is how my horses have kept me strong and have helped heal my own wounds while teaching me how to cope following traumatic events in my own life.
This fall, when Kevin arrives home, I will be doing more than riding and progressing in our training together. Kevin will be helping me mend several breaks in my heart and help ease my anxieties I have that come with the stage of life I am currently in. If anyone is ever in need of a listening ear, or a calming place to come and unwind, please know my barn is open to you, and my horses would love to nuzzle you as well. I am happy and more than willing to help you find an equine assisted program and reassure you that everyone struggles, and everyone needs a helping hand at times. Horses can be an unconventional way to help heal emotional distress and disorders. If conventional talk therapy is something you feel ashamed to pursue, then come brush a horse and scoop some poop. There is nothing more therapeutic than that!