Horses and people have a relationship that extends back millennia. That relationship has evolved, but the need to have horses in our lives has not. Even in this modern age, there is just something about being around horses that can make people happy. Here are a few ways this happens.
Hippotherapy is a type of equine therapy that utilizes the movement of horses for physical, occupational, or speech therapy and has been used to treat motor and sensory issues associated with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke, among other things.
Horses also connect with people and forge a bond in a way that exceeds human connection, and that bond can help heal emotional wounds. Horses give immediate feedback to their riders’ actions, providing a mirror for their emotions so they can learn to better recognize them and achieve better emotional balance.
You cannot hide things from horses; they are honest and cannot manipulate you. If you are angry, impatient, grieving, stressed or worried, your horse will know. They are intuitive, behaving according to the level of the rider, and they don’t pass judgment. Horses do not want anything from you, and they have no expectations. You do not have to talk about your feelings, but a horse can help you to feel what you need to work through.
In a relationship with a horse, you are a vital half of a partnership. That horse relies on you for food, water, and companionship. Being half of that partnership releases oxytocin, or the love hormone, which creates intimacy and trust between two beings. No matter how cold or tired you might be, caring for that horse comes first.
Being around horses can change human brainwave patterns, making people more calm, centered, and focused. There is something to the old statement, “horse people are stable people.” Horses have been used to help soldiers returning from deployment, autistic children, addicts, and others. The horse’s ability to demonstrate acceptance and compassion enables these creatures to help people heal from psychological and emotional wounds and trauma. Feeling compassion for others and yourself is a valuable tool in a difficult situation and world.
We live in a world full of stress, and we’re prone to the dangerous physical side effects that come with it. A study by Washington State University found that being around horses reduces the stress hormone cortisol. As herd animals, horses are attuned to stress and body language, so they will follow someone they trust and be unsettled when sensing fear. Several studies have shown that people who ride rate their emotional level as happier and more cheerful after riding.
Riding horses is a different type of exercise that helps tone and strengthen core muscles, even for people who have limited mobility on their own two feet. You can also burn a lot of calories when you are riding a horse, it provides a fun way to exercise, too! Riding a horse for 45 minutes at a walk, trot or canter can burn up to 200 calories. In addition, cleaning stalls and grooming your horse are also very physical activities. As a moderate-intensity exercise, riding horses is a fun alternative to the daily gym grind.
Being responsible for an animal is a big job, so succeeding at that can feel really good. It’s also empowering to feel in control of an animal that is much larger than you. Learning new skills helps to increase self-confidence and the ability to cope in unfamiliar situations. Progressing through mastering different paces and arena disciplines provides goals to work toward and encourages pride in hard work. In order to have a positive relationship with others, you must first have a positive relationship with yourself. A 2005 study showed that for children, a therapeutic bond with a horse can help grow mutual trust, respect, affection, empathy, unconditional acceptance, confidence, personal success, responsibility, assertiveness, communication skills, and self-control.
Spending time with horses encourages mindfulness by requiring you to respond to the immediate environment and focus on your horse and its needs. By promoting self awareness and empathy, reducing stress, and building physical strength and self-esteem, horses can help you feel good about yourself and to act compassionately toward yourself and others.