What do World Mental Health Day and horses have in common? I think that many horse people would agree with me in saying that horses have a great effect on our mental state of well being. How is that you might ask? Let me explain...
Having A Passion or A Purpose
Everyone should have a passion or purpose in life, something that they are committed to and look forward to. It gives us something for our minds to focus on besides negative factors in our life.
Our involvement with horses gives us something to do and something to work on because, with horses, there is always more to learn.
Having a passion for something in life helps our mental state by giving us a reason to push through when things seem hard.
Exercise plays a big role in our mental and physical health. Working with horses gets us outside in the fresh air. It gets us moving around and using all of our muscles.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and calm our mental state. Going for a ride or working in the barn can be a good way to settle ourselves when we get anxious or focus our minds.
Being Goal Oriented
Being goal oriented is the best way to be successful with horses and riding. Setting a goal and coming up with specific steps to meet that goal. Then working through them at whatever pace necessary.
Knowing what you are working toward and seeing your progress when you put in the work gives a great sense of pride and accomplishment.
Learning to be goal oriented in your horse endeavors can spill over into other areas of life. Starting to try to do things in a goal-oriented manner with your horse will hopefully help you start a habit that works to improve other parts of your life as well.
Being goal-oriented can be in whatever context that works for you. If you are a competitive rider, you may be working on skills to move up a level. If you are a horse owner who is busy with work and family, your goal could be as simple as committing to spending time with your horse a certain number of days per week.
Being Around Like Minded Individuals
It is always good for our mental health to be in good company. Hopefully, you ride or keep your horse at a place where you feel comfortable, a place with positive vibes.
You can go to the barn, with your horse friends or even by yourself and it can be a sanctuary for you, a relaxing escape.
It is good for our mental state to know you have a place to escape to where you are understood and feel you fit in.
Horses tend to humble us just when our egos are starting to get too big. The fact that there is so much to learn about horses and riding is humbling. To know that you can never know everything there is to know and that there is always room for improvement helps to keep us humble.
In my opinion, being a humble person and a kind person go hand and hand. Having an open frame of mind makes you less stressed and anxious, which is good for your mental health.
The 1000 Pound Animal Factor
The fact that horses are so big and strong and that they are never one hundred percent predictable is good for us. It keeps us mentally sharp, making sure we are doing things the right way and safely.
The other thing it does is help us learn to accept situations for what they are. It helps us accept things we can't change. For example, if your horse's shoe falls off the day before the show and the farrier can't get by to put it back on. Sure, that's disappointing, but there is nothing that you can do about it, what will be will be.
Sometimes you will have great rides, and sometimes you won't, but you will still love your horse and keep on working on things, even though you don't ever know for sure how things will turn out.
Accepting the variables that come along with being involved with horses is a big step. Being at peace and accepting that what will be will be, that is good for your mental health. It is a lesson learned from the horses that can apply to your mental health in other aspects of life.
I have had my highest highs and lowest lows with horses. It is a continual learning experience and I can vouch for the fact that being involved with horses is good for your mental health on many levels.
Don't believe me? Take off work and spend a "mental health day" with a horse. I bet you will leave feeling better than when you came and I will have changed your opinion on how horses can help improve your mental health!