“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Winston Churchill was certainly right, and some times of the year, more than others. I notice the holiday season has a lot of us wound up just a little tighter.
Is your horse a therapy horse? All of mine are, especially the retired ones. Sometimes the therapy takes place on the ground and sometimes in the saddle. Sometimes just passing a horse in a roadside pasture is enough, because horses have a way of elevating our hearts and minds, even at a distance.
On a bad day, we can leave our problems on the mounting block. The air is pure up in the saddle, and the stride of a horse’s gait can gradually loosen the tightest muscles, rocking us back and forth, and soothing our hearts along the way. It’s a healing, being lifted and carried, over and beyond the weight that held us down.
God bless horses, they keep us sane.
At the same time, horses have a habit of always pointing out when our underwear is showing. They are like amplifiers of whatever is going on inside, reflecting our insecurities just as easily as our confidence. They don’t judge it, they just show it on the Jumbotron for anyone to see. Worst case: After they reflect our fear and confusion, everyone gets to see our frustration and anger as well. Horses just don’t lie.
There is an argument that we would have to be nuts to have horses.
Stress seems to cut both ways, too. There is good stress, like the rush this time of year of making gifts, spending time with family, and keeping up with holiday traditions. And there is bad stress, like being alone, missing a loved one who has passed, or just being exhausted from not sleeping enough. But good reasons or bad reasons, it makes little difference. In the end, it’s still stress. It’s the root of most health issues; the tie between illness, emotions, and stress is undeniable. Your horse feels the stress of his own daily routine, and then yours gets added on top.
“All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he’ll listen to me any day.” Anonymous
Horses are pretty good with cheering up a bad day, or distracting us from the humm and rattle of daily disasters. Actual clinical depression is above their pay grade, and sometimes we ask them to carry more than we should. When that goes on for too long, they take on some of that dark part of us for their own. Eventually negative emotions in a rider will wear a horse down, either mentally, physically, or usually both. Maybe they over-react or maybe they shut down, but just because horses tolerate our dark days doesn’t mean they should have to forever.
We riders are a tough bunch. Like stoic horses, some of us don’t always ask for help when we need it. We are famous for taking care of our animals before ourselves. And in spite of what the commercials on TV say, this is a hard time of the year for a lot of us. Not everyone has a loving family, not everyone has that Peace on Earth feeling.
When do we make the call? When is it too much for us and our horses to bear? If you are honest with yourself, you know when it’s more than a bad day or week. If you have fallen into depression, go get help, for your horse’s sake, if not your own. I am a fan of therapy; it gave me a sense of humor and an indoor voice.
I wish everyone a great holiday, however you spend it. And I know this hasn’t been the cheeriest of holiday wishes, but maybe it’s just the New Year’s resolution you and your horse need.
In the meantime, ready for the message from your therapist?
Your horse says, “What’s Christmas? You seem tense, are you okay? It’s hard for me to do my best work well when you’re upset, but I could carry around you for a while. Or you can just curry me, if you want. Remember, I’m a prey animal, I can feel you better than people do. Or we could just share an apple and breathe together, you like that.”
It’s like I always say: Some days they carry us and some days we carry them. It’s called a partnership.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.