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Equine-Assisted Activities Paving The Trail For Mental Health And Wellness

While walking to the barn, I start to get a sense of calm flood over me. I start finding my center by bringing my focus into the present moment, the gentle air and sunshine across my face, birds chirping in the background, the sound of leaves rustling on the trees, and the smell of horses in the air. As I am greeted by a horse walking up to me from the pasture, all I can do is smile and take a deep breath of relaxation.

In such a busy and bustling life full of everyday stressors, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our mental health and well-being. The benefits and healing power of horses can be life changing. Some may seek out equine-assisted activities following a new diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety, or depression, and others may be eagerly searching for an alternative therapy after many other treatments for a mental health diagnosis have been unsuccessful. Regardless of what part of your healing journey you are on, there has been great support showing that equine-assisted activities may be the magical unicorn you have been looking for.

When we think about interactions with horses, we generally think about action sports we may have seen in person or a broadcast consisting of horse-racing, rodeo, or even that mighty cowboy riding off into the sunset. While horseback riding can have many benefits to wellness, the most standardized approach by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) focuses on unmounted equine-assisted activities, which do not typically include horseback riding.

A seemingly simple bonding interaction with a horse, perhaps during a grooming session, walking a horse through an obstacle course, or a horse greeting us out in the pasture, can lead to profound connections when we least expect it. They can provide us with a safe space to share experiences we have had, help give someone a new perspective on a challenge they are facing, and even help provide us with great insight on the importance of connection with others.

While some equine-assisted activities can consist of working directly with a horse, another component is observing and learning from equine behavior in their natural environment. Horses are naturally herd animals and can teach us how vital connecting with the right herd can be. Horses can also have anxiety-driven reactions of their own, being considered prey animals. Learning how they recognize and respond to perceived threats can also help us navigate our own anxiety-driven reactions.

Horses can give us a multifaceted experience in mental health and wellness. While there has been outstanding supporting research showing the benefits of the horse-human connection, there is still a vast amount to still be explored. As we focus on the trail ahead, one of the greatest concepts horses can teach us is that the joy is found in the journey, and the best is yet to come.

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” —William Arthur Ward

By Taylor Renee
Program Manager & EAL/EAP Instructor at Seven Wings Ranch

Seven Wings Ranch’s Mission: 
"To provide equine services for our wounded warriors and disabled individuals."



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