Not Horsin’ Around with Anxiety ~ Bree, CSR Lead

 I don’t think it’s a big secret around Shiloh, or with my clients, that I am the crazy horse girl!

I’d like to say I’ve had the luxury of being around horses my entire life, with them being my entire world, but that is far from the truth. I grew up watching horse shows like Saddle Club, with my toy horses, dreaming of the day I could get myself on the back of the most magical, majestic beast, in my eyes. My chance finally came when I honestly needed it most. I was at the time working an extremely stressful job, in a not so great time in my life and had become severely depressed and riddled with anxiety. I don’t know what made me jump up one morning and say, “Today’s the day I ride a horse,” but right then and there, I googled Equestrian Centers near me and emailed the first one I found. I started a working student position to work off riding lessons, and my life changed.

Equine therapy for treatment and assistance in mental illnesses, addiction, and physical ailments has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. While it has always been known that spending time with animals has a positive effect on our emotions as human beings, horses might take the crown when it comes to relaying that energy right back.

New research suggests that horses have a sixth sense that can identify anxiety, stress, and fear in humans, in turn helping humans identify these emotions in themselves. To add to their amazingness, recent studies suggest when our horses interact with us, they tend to synchronize to our heartbeats as well, meaning they can sense changes in our moods. Scientists believe this stems from their natural instincts in the wild to synchronize their heartbeats with their herd in order to sense danger and escape together. My fellow equestrians know the sayings too well “Don’t tense up, or he’ll tense up” and “Take a deep breath, they can sense your fear,” and it is all too true. The acknowledgment and engagement of this amazing connection involves having to figure out, adjust, and relax yourself to in turn relax your partner, who is looking to you for guidance.

Equine Therapy can help build confidence, self-efficiency, communication, trust, perspective, social skills, impulse control, relaxation, and even learn boundaries. There are so many different ways to engage in Equine-assisted therapy, some include not even getting on the horse! This practice is used in treatments for anxiety, depression, autism, eating disorders, abuse, ADHD, ADD, Cerebral Palsy, dementia, and so many more. Honestly, it’s just the funnest thing I’ve ever done. There is nothing quite like galloping down a straight path looking at the happiest ears, hearing the thud of hooves, and just… flying.

I can truly say horses and riding and working at multiple barns made me the adult I am today. I was able to utilize this therapy without even realizing it, and all the lesson horses that I’ve been so grateful to ride, and my own horse Gambino, who gave me his heart, and still does every day, healed the parts of me that at the time, were so broken. They taught me happiness, relaxation, true hard work and dedication, and most of all, pure love.

We’ve all seen our classic horse movie where the distraught teenager is the only one who can break down the dangerous stallion and show his true heart underneath. (but please, don’t try this!) Although the riding skills make me yell “heels down!” at the screen, they had the right idea. Take the next chance you get, and go get yourself on a horse! There are many wonderful lesson programs and therapeutic programs in the Triangle Area, as well as a little further out.

Feel free to ask me for recommendations!