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Horse-Riding Helped Anorexic Girl Back To Health
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Horse-Riding Helped Anorexic Girl Back To Health

Horse-loving Anna Heathcote, 26, works as a communications officer and lives in Nottinghamshire, England. In November 2014, she was shocked by a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, after losing a great deal of weight over the former 6 months.  At the time, it did not occur to her that her childhood love of horse-riding would help her beat the deadly disease.

She had not deliberately planned to lose a lot of weight, only to eat more healthily. “However, somehow I became carried away using apps on my phone to track my food intake,” she says; “I was getting a thrill from using the apps every day, and from limiting my calories.“  Her parents and her boyfriend John expressed their concern, but Anna insisted she was following a sensible diet.  She went to the doctor for a check-up because she had started worrying about her general health, and it was only when an anorexia diagnosis was confirmed, that she realised how sick she had become.  She was shocked, and made a promise to herself to get well, while receiving treatment from the National Health Service, and support from the UK eating disorder charity Beat.

Anna had to reluctantly give up the marketing job she enjoyed so that she could focus on her health, and after several months off work,  in the spring of 2015 she started looking for a less challenging role.  Almost at once, she thought about working with horses, because she remembered how relaxed and calm she had felt when riding them as a child.   At first she was not  physically strong enough to ride a horse; there were days when she was so weak she needed her boyfriend to help her just get out of bed. But then she discovered a Riding for the Disabled Centre near where she lived, which seemed like an ideal opportunity, so she started volunteering for them.

Anna says that being outside in the fresh air gave her a sense of great well-being, and the combination of animals and nature made her feel happy, less isolated and more confident.  However,  she found working at the stables  demanding physically and she knew that if she wanted to ride again, she had to eat healthily and build up her strength.

As a result, this gave her the much-needed incentive to take control of her eating habits, and in the course of her volunteering she became physically strong enough to start riding again. “It really helped me”  she comments,  “For one thing, because horses don’t judge, and I started seeing my body as strong and capable, and a tool which enabled me to communicate with the animals I love."

By April 2016, Anna felt as if she had at last conquered her anorexia. She had been doing freelance work but was at that point strong enough to return to full-time employment.  After finding peace and serenity in the great outdoors with horses, she was now ready to give back, so she took a job as a communications officer with the Wildlife Trust.  This seemed appropriate, as she had experienced the healing effects of nature, i.e. riding through the countryside, enjoying the peace with just a horse for company.  She is convinced that is what helped her regain her health.


Picture courtesy of www.pixabay.com



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  1. jst4horses
    Love this article, we started a program called Size Two Riding Club for young people who either ate too much, or did not eat enough (or at all).....we had girls who got on our biggest horse, and the poor horse sank into the sand, his knees buckling..........I would say, guess his knees hurt, but it hurt those girls to know that the biggest horse in the barn could not hold their weight, BOTH are in good health now, and one even moved to ranch and bought her own horse and got into barrel racing..............we also had ballet friends of one of our regular riding students, girls who would see only fat where everyone else saw skin and bones, and were horrified..........several of these girls ate cardboard.............whoever put that myth out there I do not know..............I was very fortunate in my life, and went to Jack LaLanne most of my life, I was concerned because I weighed about twenty pounds more than the fashionably 120 everyone SAID they weighed. The fitness trainer did the fat tests and said I did not have any excess fat, but was VERY strong. My second husband used to say, it is because of your Popeye arms, because I was so strong, carrying around bales of hay, and grooming, and lifting kids up in our equine therapy programs..............One day I took a professional barrel racing star to the doctor and was SHOCKED when they shouted out, as nurses tend to do, 160 pounds. SHE was shorter than I was and wore smaller sized shirts, and jeans........she must have been made of steel from all those barrel racing horses she trained, and her own that she rode...............it made me realize, it is NOT about weight, it is about fitness........Take care and stay fit all:)
    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Yes, exactly jst4horses! Thanks for commenting.

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