Monday, May 26, 2014

What horses give us

In the last blog I talked about how resilient we are as riders.  Our bodies might get injured, but after a good ride our minds are in a terrific place.  

We all know that we feel better after a good ride.  The exhilaration and euphoria.  My cousin talks about a "runner’s high" when he runs, but what about a "rider’s high"?  A bad day at work can be easily remedied by going to the barn and seeing our horses--even if you don't ride that day.  We forget about everything.  In the barn we are one with our horse.  Horses are very expensive and are not for everybody, but what do they give us?  Happiness, love, peace, tranquility, back to basics.  No phone, no email, no traumas of the world.  For those couple hours, everything is forgotten.  While I was recovering from my horse related injury, for what seemed forever, 3 months, I would still go to the barn a few days a week to check on my horse.  I would feel so happy after just seeing him.  I remember the first time I drove after my surgery, where did I go?  That’s right---to the barn.  

A friend of mine recently had thyroid surgery.  She was slowly getting better and looked forward to when she could ride again.  Last week (about three weeks after surgery) she called me and her first words to me were “I rode!!!  She was perfect!”  I was so happy for her--I knew exactly what she was feeling.  I could tell from that point on, she was on the right track to healing and getting better-faster.  

We find ourselves trying to rearrange our already packed schedules to get riding time in.  We give up many things to be able to ride.  Inevitably, we decline many invitations because we know we can ride that day.  I know I look ahead at the weather and try to arrange non-horsey activities for days that it will rain.  Do our non-horsey friends understand this?  Some do, but not like our horse friends.  We often say that we “needed” this ride.  Riding is a form of therapy.  Expensive therapy, but therapy indeed.    

Do our horses cause us stress?  Yes!  New shoes and then they pull one.  Abscesses, vet care, the heartbreak of illness and injury.  I am sure you have not had all perfect days in the saddle.  What disappointment we have when we have a bad ride.  Maybe our horse wasn’t in the mood for flatwork or jumping that day.  Maybe he wanted to play with his herd mates and relax in the sunshine.  I know when I have a bad ride, I am very upset.  I feel horrible--until I get up to the barn again.  Nervously, I go out to the field to get him, and he is back to himself and we had a terrific ride.  I am happily riding and driving home only to experience the “rider’s high” again. 

Recently many articles and studies have come out about the benefits of “equine therapy”.  Many things, that we as equestrians know already.  The article below briefly speaks of a study that stress and cortisol levels have gone down when teenagers work with horses for just 90 minutes a week.

Another related article did a very small study of patients with Alzheimer’s.  They brought some of the patients to a farm to work with horses.  They would bathe, brush and feed the horses as long as they were able to handle it.  They found that the patients were more agreeable, happier and not resistant to their other therapies later in the day.  The patients would even push their limits--some who don’t walk, asked to be helped up to stand and others who usually refused to walk would get up to be with the horses.  

My question to you is: What happens when you have a bad ride?  How do you change your mood around?  Do you go to the barn just to feel better?  Do you also feel the euphoria after a great ride?  

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