This article, Horses, Depression, and Me: How Riding Changed my Life, came up in my
news feed today. Not that the idea came as a shock. Horses are good therapy. They are great listeners, they are always glad to see you (if you are the person who feeds them) and they are willing to work with us, developing partnerships based on trust and understanding.
I was already aware of the tradition of equine therapy: with a horse, you get instant feedback on how you are in the moment. Are you tense? Angry? The horse feels it and reacts in kind. Movement in response to tension is tense. Movement in response to anger often ends with you lying in the dirt. You always need to be aware of how you are holding yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Where are your arms and legs? What is the angle of your body in the saddle? Are you providing confident leadership or transmitting anxiety and fear?
Spending time with Freedom and Zelda always makes me feel good. Even in this winter, when I haven’t been riding because of the ice and snow, I enjoy grooming them, talking to them and slipping them candy canes and carrots.
They are very different horses, with distinct personalities. Zelda is in your face, curious and knows how big she is. When she comes galloping up the hill, the earth literally shakes under her feet. When I first got Zelda she was pushy, and it wasn’t hard to imagine her literally bowling you over. She tested me every day. It took time to come to an understanding with her. Now she is friendly but stays in her own personal space. She works with me. Some days she may consider me to be the alpha mare.
Freedom is a worrier. He’s easily upset and he looks to his humans for calmness and stability. You can’t ever be nervous around him because then he wonders what he should be afraid of. He’s a gently horse, but you have to be careful around him because he’s skittish and reactive. If he was a human, he’d be a chain smoker. He needs to meditate.
Every day they give me feedback on how I’m doing and every day the bring me joy.