Riding and Stress: Do you ride to de-stress?

Back in November I read a post on The Barb Wire that resonated with me. It was called Tempest. In it, Tamara talks about dealing with stress caused by lies and injustice. She concludes that she won’t ride until she feels better because she doesn’t want to ride when she’s so tense and upset.
“Ever tried working when a horse when your fuse is short?

It’s a bad idea. In fact, to the horse, it’s downright unjust. Confusing.

She doesn’t understand lies, my horse. Whatever I tell her with my body and tone, she takes as purest truth.

She has no concept of misdirected rage.

She doesn’t understand, “I’m sorry.”

So I’ll repair fence, or shovel manure, or fill the water troughs by hand. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and listen while the horses chew their hay. But I won’t ride. Not until I’m good and ready to do it right.”

I don’t know what’s happening in her life, but I can relate to the stress and injustice issue. I’m going through a situation now that makes me grind my teeth. I wake up in the morning with an ache in my jaw from dreaming about this. My family doesn’t want me around when I start to ruminate because my fuse has been wickedly short.

For me, riding (and actually almost any time at the barn) has been the only time when I do feel calm. When I ride I can focus on the moment, feel my horse breathe, react to his movement and forget my problems. It’s good therapy. Riding has always been like a meditation for me. It’s refreshing simply because I don’t let the outside world intrude upon my thoughts.

Now I agree with Tamara that when you are angry or frustrated you shouldn’t ride. Especially if you are angry at your horse. We’ve all had days when we feel we can’t ride or that our horses are hopeless. Years ago I had a trainer who always advised us that when we felt that way the best thing we could do for our horses is to either hack them in the wood on a long rein or get off and put them away. It’s advice that I still live by.

But I don’t know if I could have gotten through the past few weeks without horse therapy. It’s certainly a lot less expensive than the lawyer I had to hire today. Freedom should expect some company tomorrow. I’m hoping the footing is good enough for a nice long hack.

How about all of you? Do you ride when you’re upset? Cuddle with your horse? Or do you stay away?

3 thoughts on “Riding and Stress: Do you ride to de-stress?

  1. Well…for me it really depends on my mood and how stressed I am and how it’s manifesting. If it’s resulting in anger, I won’t even get on because every little thing just sets me off, no matter how hard I try to control it. I end up feeling even worse when I get off. If I’m sad or just anxious I’ll ride and it always makes me feel better in the end.

  2. I liked Tamara’s post also. There are certain horses you have to be “on” with 24/7. I can’t ride a horse that needs me to contain them if I’m more than a little stressed.

    Today was horrifically stressful, and I headed out to the barn at the first opportunity. I rode bareback, at the walk, on the buckle, on a horse I knew would babysit me if I let him know I needed a little TLC.

    Once at the barn, I managed (ta-da) to make a crisis out of a small snag-in-plan. Time to quit. If I’m actively creating stress, that’s no good either.

    I’d say 75% of the time riding or being around horses drops my stress, even anger, by half at least. I get grounded, I feel better, I find some perspective. 🙂

  3. i always ride to destress I am nearly 40 and i’ve only been riding for four years but it is the first thing i’ve found that is a surefire way to destressing every time. It got me through my marriage break up and didn’t cost any more than therapy but was way more fun. Now I have a problem I still haven’t found any other ways of destressing but I can’t ride for three months because I broke my collarbone (yes falling off the horse) and now not only can I not ride but can’t even drive down the barn which is 30 miles away from where I live so I’m pissed off in pain and denied my favourite thing. I love my kids to bits but they don’t give me the sense of peace and calm and exhilieration I feel when I am on a horse.

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