22/07/2015 12:00 AM
Ask any horse owner what they love about their hobby and it will be rare to hear anyone refer to the fact that they have a horse simply to enable them to ride on a regular basis. For the majority of equestrian enthusiasts, there is a significant amount of pleasure to be derived from just being around a horse. Spending time in the presence of these magnificent creatures is a form of therapy in its own right, providing an opportunity to take a break from the trials and tribulations of the day and enjoy the incredible bond of trust that is shared with our equine friends.
The ‘therapeutic’ benefits associated with horses has even been given an official title in the professional world ‘Equine Assisted Psychotherapy’ (EAP) and Learning is an evolving field in which horses are used as facilitators in improving the emotional well-being of people. It is used to successfully address a number of mental health and human development needs including behavioural issues, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, relationship problems and communication needs.
But outside of the formal psychotherapy field, how do you define the many benefits that are derived from being around horses? In short, what’s the big deal for those involved with the UK’s 988,000 horses.
Riding in itself is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, balance and flexibility. But in addition to the gruelling work out that a good schooling session will deliver, the work associated with looking after a horse is also physically demanding. Mucking out stables, pushing wheelbarrows, clearing the droppings from fields, carrying water buckets as well as bales of shavings, hay or straw and grooming are just some of the daily calorie burning chores that will feature on the horse owners ‘to do’ list.
Interacting with horses is an instant stress buster and studies have shown that being in the presence of these wonderful animals can influence an decrease in blood pressure and in the hormones associated with a stress reaction. Couple this with the advantages of escapism while riding out in the stunning countryside and the well documented natural ‘high’ triggered by exercise and you have the perfect de-stress therapy.
New equestrian friends
Once you become involved with horses, it soon becomes apparent that there are plenty of like-minded souls out there who share your passion and devotion. If you keep your horse on a yard, chances are you will forge strong friendships with your fellow horse owners and even if you don’t actually own a horse, you are likely to immerse yourself in a new friendship group featuring other horse enthusiasts.
A horse doesn’t answer back. A horse will never criticise you. A horse relies on you to keep it safe, healthy and happy. Having the responsibility for such a large animal and being able to influence how it moves / where it moves, can really bolster your self-confidence.
Health and horses
Spending time with horses inevitably means being outside more which will increase your dose of Vitamin D, essential for the absorption of calcium and bone growth. Being involved in weight bearing exercise, such as carrying heavy equipment, water buckets etc can help maintain bone mass, which is important as you age. Riding at a walking pace will stimulate the internal organs aiding liver function and digestion.
So there you have it, official confirmation that horses are good for you! To find out more about the horsey world, why not browse our equestrian pages where you will find plenty of information and advice related to horse ownership / improving your riding skills.