The quote “there’s nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse” is frequently used for a reason: it’s true.
Since the first time I swung into a saddle, getting on a horse has improved even the worst of bad days. There have been two occasions upon which I’ve “lost my nerve”, but never did I doubt my desire to get it back, and during these bad times I continued to use riding as my therapy. Hindsight gives me clarity, and shows me that when there have been times in which I haven’t spent much or any time around horses, my mood has been dramatically altered, and I’ve been far less content.
I re-connected with horses on a full-time basis two weeks ago, and the effect of their presence was instant. I get up to do the morning feed and it’s a beautiful time of day: it doesn’t hurt that the weather is warm and sunny here, but there’s something soothing about watching contented animals munch away, and the appreciation that they give you afterwards.
Then when you’re actually on a horse, it’s transcendental: it’s dangerous to think about anything other than what you’re doing and the moment that you’re in – if your concentration wanders, you and the horse are in great danger, so you must shut everything else out. There’s no time for worrying about that food you should’ve got out of the freezer, or the email you needed to send, or whether you’ll have time to watch three TV programmes before bed. It’s about you and the horse, and that’s grounding for the spirit.
Horse power is well-recognised by horse lovers, both in a physical and a psychological sense. The Riding for the Disabled Association do fantastic work in the UK for those with all sorts of congenital, developmental and acquired problems, and have been a recognised and successful body for a long time. The use of horses for therapies in other senses is, finally, gaining more recognition by medical professionals. Horses are being used with increasing frequency in treating autism spectrum disorders, depression, anxiety and addiction, as well as having applications in the business world when they are used as a tool for teaching methods of communication.
The way in which humans harness the power of horses has evolved beyond carts and carriages, transportation and haulage. The development and increased availability of alternative modes of transport meant that the horse had to find a new place in the world and, initially, that was generally for pleasure or sport. The horse is again re-inventing itself in order to provide the modern world with another service, and long may it continue.