Your Horse Isn’t Your Therapist

We see and hear all the time, people comparing their horses to therapy. Saying that horses are great for mental health, and so on. I have been guilty of this too. And of course horses can be very therapeutic. They are used in actual forms of therapy. But our own, personal horses that are not specifically trained to be therapy horses should not have the burden of dealing with whatever is going on in our heads. In other words, we have to leave our problems at the mounting block. Or better yet, at the gates to their pastures or doors of their stalls.

This topic came to mind this morning while I was riding. Flynn had a week off due to pulling a shoe, so he was a little frisky. But besides that we were not really in sync, and I was tense. I was tense because I have been having a very stressful couple of weeks for various reasons. And today, I did not leave my problems at the gate. I also struggled with that a lot during last school year, and we did not have the best rides. Since being on summer break, I have noticed that I am much more relaxed when I ride things just flow much of the time.

Apart from not riding well, I think that the bigger issue is that it is not Flynn’s job to deal with my problems and help me to feel better. And I think that it is very easy to sort of put that on our horses.

For me, horses are therapeutic because I have to be fully present when I am with them. It forces me to get outside, breathe the fresh air, and exercise. When I am having a rough day – which I have plenty of because mental health can be a struggle for me – going out to ride and spend time with the horses is often just what I need. However, I have to leave my problems at the gate. I have to work on myself on my own time, not theirs. When I was still working Chance, I did yoga pretty much every day because even the smallest amount of anxiety from me and he would become an anxious mess as well! Flynn is not quite so sensitive, but my tension definitely affects our rides. I have also had trouble catching the horses when I went out in a bad mood expecting them to make me feel better, and they wanted nothing to do with my negative energy.

I guess my whole point of my post is that while horses can be very therapeutic, and great listeners, they are not our therapists. We have to be able to leave our problems at the gate, and be the best we can be for them.

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