“It’s a beautiful thing to meet someone who makes you forget your troubles.” - Horsefeathers Therapeutic Riding Ctr, NFP
Recently, I came across an article from the Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill entitled “25 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety Without Medications!”* It seems like everyone struggles with stress to some degree, but my female horse-loving friends are by far the most easy-going of all my acquaintances and now I have discovered the scientific research behind that. Of Chapel Hill’s 25 ways to reduce stress, our barn life ticks off more than half of them.
1. Breathe. As soon as you arrive at the stables you can’t help but take a good deep breath or two to inhale the sweetness of fresh cut grass or mown hay, or in our case the beautiful roses beside the shower stall, nurtured so tenderly by the owner.
2. Get Organized. It doesn’t matter how neat our homes are, each one of us at the barn are hoarders. Everyone’s locker is stocked full with a variety of halters, ointments, sprays, tack… if you aren’t organized you would never get the door closed.
3. Talk to Yourself. I am always telling myself aloud to remember little things like Joey gets a pill with his grain or to make sure I charge the golf cart before I leave.
4. Take a Walk. On my barn chores day I easily get my daily recommended 10,000 steps in.
5. Find the Heating Pad. I have a cloth rice bag that is shaped like a scarf. After a hard day at the stables, after I put it in the microwave, it’s a best friend to my neck and shoulders.
6. Focus on Now. My horse Tara is an expert at bringing me back to what she’s up to right in the moment if my mind ever wanders.
7. Turn up the Tunes. Tara and I love Garth Brooks.
8. Laugh. Cosmo literally tickles my ribs every time I duck into his stall to clean his waterer.
9. Exercise. I know Tara does most of the work when we canter, but my legs tell me the next day that I was definitely in on it.
10. Chew gum. This helps to keep me from getting tense and stiff through my neck and jaw muscles, Basic Riding 101.
11. Hang out with Your Pet. Okay don’t tell the barn cats they’re pets but they love to hang out with me when I break out some good Meow Mix. Their grateful purrs are relaxing vibrations to both them and me.
12. Meditate. I picture the stalls as my personal Zen Gardens as I rake in blissful silence.
13. Smooch. I don’t quite know what Tara thinks of my kisses but I can’t help myself and she never pulls away, most likely because I follow up with her favorite treat.
Then we both get to feel de-stressed.