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Ever since I was a little girl I have always found being around my horses helped me to relax. They made me calmer, relieved my stress and anxieties, and overall just helped me to think more clearly about all of the crazy stuff I have going on in my life. Whether it was university exam stress, the pressures of running my own business or just the day-to-day struggles that most of us go through, there was no problem too big that my little angels Sonny, Gee or Lola couldn’t take my mind off.

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It turns out, according to many therapists, scientists and equine specialists that these are very real benefits having studied the effects of being with and riding horses as a form of therapy; this is known as Equine Therapy. Whilst more research is being done into this form of treatment, it is showing huge progression as a form of therapy in the treatment of many different mental health issues, including:
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction and substance abuse
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar
  • ADHD/ADD
  • Grief
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
So why are horses so good for your mental health?

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1. HORSES ARE CALMING & LOVING - Horses are very sensitive creatures. They are both herding animals as well as prey animals and so are much more attuned to their environment as well as others physical and emotional distress. Horses are able to mirror and respond to human behaviour and emotion (as they can sense others feelings) and so teach you to be calm and collected, being naturally chilled out animals themselves. This helps to relieve stress, depression and anxiety as well as taking your mind off of any negativity. From studying these loving creatures, it has been found that they can hear the human heartbeat within four feet and can even synchronise their own heartbeat to the beat of yours! If that’s not a connection, then I don’t know what is…

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girl with horse

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2. HEALTHY BODY = HEALTHY MIND - Owning a horse, or partaking in Equine Therapy, gives you the opportunity to be much more active! Whether it’s just talking a horse for a quiet walk or going for a relaxing ride, being active with your horse will physically make you fitter, leaving you with strengthened muscles, better posture and balance and reducing the physical signs of depression and anxiety such as high blood pressure or high heart rate. Plus, we all know how much serotonin (the chemical released by our brains that makes us happy) is produced when we’re fit and healthy! The additional exercise will also help you to catch more Z’s at night as well as make you sharper and more focused (perfect if you have stressful exams coming up like I did).

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equine therapy

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3. MAKE A MEANINGFUL CONNECTION - Sometimes we can feel like we have no one to talk to or that nobody understands us, and if this is something that plagues you constantly, Equine therapy could be for you. Participants that struggle with expressing their negative thoughts, feelings and emotions or with trusting other people find through working with horses that it helps them to open up more. This is because horses are such good listeners, nurturers and are also protective, which helps people to develop a special bond and get some things off their chest, experience

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horse in field

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4. CHALLENGE YOURSELF - Learning to ride and tend to horses helps you develop a new skill and contributes towards your own personal development. The more practice you get and the more tricks you can teach your horse and yourself, it helps to improve your memory over time as well as pushing you outside of your comfort zone making you feel much more confident in other challenging endeavours!

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horse racing

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5. GROWING AS A PERSON - No one is perfect, and we all have those traits within us that we wish we didn’t have or ones that we wished we could deal with better and so riding and caring for horses is a really good way of challenging your own behaviour. Horses need grooming, feeding, exercising and loving and so caring for one gives you a role of responsibility and helps you become more in tune with your own emotional and physical needs. Horses also have their own personalities and so aren’t always well behaved; riding and working with them helps you to develop patience, discipline, understanding and empathy.

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hugging horse

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If you’re experiencing any symptoms of a mental health condition and believe equine therapy could be for you, please contact your GP to see if this would be suitable treatment.