Mental Health Awareness Week
3rd – 9th October 2021
As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, we thought it was important to focus on how horses can help your mental health.
Millions of Americans are living with mental health issues. Having gone through a global pandemic, mental health awareness is a priority now more than ever. The three most common disorders are anxiety, depression and bipolar.
Discover how horses and nature can improve your mental wellbeing.
Can horses help your mental health and wellbeing?
Many studies have proved that spending time with animals and being outdoors can improve mental and physical wellbeing.
Horses are in tune with human emotion and are a great calming influence as they can mirror the feelings of the rider or handler.
Determined in a Swedish study, scientists discovered the heart rate of a horse can be influenced by the heart rate of their rider and handler.
This indicates that horses can read human emotion and sense the same fear. It is this intuitive and understanding nature that makes them a wonderful companion for humans.
How do horses help your mental health?
Horses help people overcome obstacles and fears. Some people are very scared of horses due to their strength and size. Beginning to handle such an overwhelming creature is a huge achievement.
For experienced equestrians, there are still many things that can make you nervous. Jumping a certain height or style of jump. Competing in front of a crowd. Riding outside of an arena and so on. There is no better feeling or sense of achievement that overcoming these fears as a team with your horse.
Why makes horses unique for therapy?
Horses carry no judgement on you and are completely un-biased. They do not care what you look like or what poor decisions you have made in the past. They focus on a human’s behaviour and emotion which allows us to live in the moment instead of worrying about past experiences or future theories.
Horses, ponies, and mules are loving, calm animals, but they require a lot of patience and understanding. Their size and strength can make them extremely dangerous, so you learn to be gentle and calm when handling them.
You cannot simply demand control of an animal with such presence. You must establish a relationship with them first and become accustomed to their personality.
Grooming and groundwork is psychologically pleasing for both you and your horse as you begin to form a trusting partnership.
Who can benefit from equine therapy?
If you are lucky enough to own or lease a horse, you understand how wonderful it is to have an ongoing bond with your animal.
Occasionally, the thought of going to the barn after a tough day of work or looking after the kids can be draining. Yet, every time you push yourself to spend time with your horse you leave with a clearer mind which helps reduce the stress of your day.
If you are having a tough time, why not reach out to an equine therapist who may be able to offer advice and exercises that you can practice with your horse?
It is not just horse owners that can benefit from spending time with these amazing animals. Equine therapy is fast becoming popular across the globe for helping with mental illnesses and even addiction.
How can nature help my mental wellbeing?
Horses and time spent outdoors go hand in hand. Grounding yourself is the process of balancing your mental, physical, and emotional state and reconnecting them.
When you do not feel grounded, your thoughts can feel untidy and overwhelming. This can particularly affect those suffering with mental illnesses.
Here are some examples that may help you stay grounded with nature:
- Some people find that walking barefoot outside on grass or sand can help you feel grounded.
- Wild water swimming can help you reconnect with nature and align your thoughts. Light exercise.
- With horses you are regularly doing chores around that barn that involve a lot of exercise, but why not try something new. Maybe take your horse for a walk in-hand.
What works for one person, my not work for another and it is vital that you seek the support you require if you, or someone you know, is suffering with their mental health.
Share your knowledge and understanding of horses to help others improve their mental health and wellbeing. If you are introducing some new to horses, our beginner's guide to horse grooming would be a great place to start in showing them how horses can help your mental health.