With Mental Health Awareness week now at a close we touch base on how limited time with your horse could be affecting your Mental Health …
Mental health can affect everyone in a different way and each person that suffers from it will benefit from different treatment. Many people live their daily lives, unaware that they suffer from any type of mental health and believe that how they feel is normal. There is a good chance that these people who do suffer, who haven’t sought medical advice, have developed their own coping mechanisms. For most equestrians, their horses play an incredibly important role in this.
“KK helped reduce my anxiety. He taught me so much and after a bad day I can go to him and within minutes he calms me. I am on medication but he is the best treatment for me. It’s having the correct balance. I can fully switch off and just think about him” says Ashley, who works in mental health.
Horses have a proven track record when it comes to tackling many emotional and physical issues. Those of us who spend any number of hours with our horses will know, we always leave feeling better than when we first arrived.
Do you know why this might be?
Firstly, they heavily rely on people for their survival. Horses rely on people to provide their food, shelter and care. Spending time with horses teaches us how to understand their characteristics, how to read them and know how they might be feeling, so that we can care for them in the best way possible and give them what they want. This in turn helps us better understand our own thoughts and feelings.
Secondly, getting us active! Yes, the exercise alone is fantastic for our mental health. Mucking out does count too and the riding helps with muscle toning. For some, riding and putting your life in an animal’s hands can be daunting but for those of us who are at our happiest in this situation, this is our escapism. Our freedom.
This leads onto the last point, they do make us happy, however if they’ve thrown a shoe the day before competition it might be a different story. Studies have shown that not only are horses a natural mood enhancer but they reduce problems such as depression, stress and anxiety.
With today’s uncertainty and ultimately drastic change to routine it can draw out the negativity from individuals who suffer with mental health conditions. So it is very important to try and find ways to combat any negativity you may be feeling.
“I need something for my sanity, being stuck in with a 2-year-old who doesn’t understand why we can’t do our normal things is tough going” says Sarah who benefits from the escape and grounding of spending time with her horse.
Research from the University of Exeter Business School assessed the benefits of a community interest group, which runs various courses for the NHS. One of which is Horsemanship for Health UK, which enables participants to develop their self understanding and build relationships with horses. The course is available for people who suffer from mental health conditions. This course has taught people to connect with their feelings and discover ways to manage their mental health struggles. Horses generally reflect the personality of the person standing in front of them, so to bring the best out in them you have to find that part of you. Those who are unable to have this equine interaction find that medication is the only way to help, but equestrians will look for help in their horses first.
So, with the current crisis in full swing, some are unable to spend time with their horses and may be feeling the consequences. For some, this is an unusual feeling and may be facing mental health issues for the first time and others might be seasoned pros. For those who are experiencing symptoms, you should know you are not alone. For those who have learnt to understand their emotions, they will know how important getting that equine fix is. So no matter where in the world you are stuck and no matter how much or how little time you get to spend with your horse, you have to make the most of it. If you’re unable to see your horse at all then you need to find ways to fill the gap. Some have taken up running or cycling to maintain the exercise aspect, and others have commited to voicing their emotions and feelings to people close to them.
It is very difficult to replicate the therapy horses can give to a person but if you are feeling anxious, depressed or low then please talk to someone close to you.
If you want further help or advice to find peace with your mind then mental health helplines are still running services over the phone and via skype, where you can speak to someone.
The worst thing you can do is in these circumstances is nothing!
Thank you to those who contributed to this article!
Riders Minds is available to ALL riders both amateur and professional for anybody struggling with mental health
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