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Stress Relief through horses

2 February 2010

Did you know that being around horses, in the right way, can be a fast-track to relaxation, inner calmness and most significantly, stress relief? 

This article will explore what stress is and how horses help relieve stress. 

What is Stress? 

I’ve always understood Stress to be the tension we carry in our bodies emanating from our minds, our worry-based fears and thoughts about things going on in our life. 

Stress manifests in various ways, common symptoms include: 

  • Racing thoughts and mind
  • Worry based thought patterns
  • Always thinking either of the future or of the past
  • An inability to relax and self-soothe, meditate, rest, etc
  • Lethargy, tiredness, heaviness
  • Sleep patterns are disrupted
  • Bodily symptoms including tension, aches, pains, digestive disorders, skins complaints, headaches or migraines, etc
  • Depression
  • Disinterest in life
  • Withdrawal from the company of others
  • Reduced participation in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

These are all the commonly known and recognised symptoms of modern day stress. 

How do horses help relieve stress? 

1) Reduction in worry-based thoughts and fears - 

Because horses live fully in the present, neither thinking of the past nor worrying about the future, being in their company can bring us into the present moment. 

2) Being Present - 

When we’re in the present moment we are focussed on what we are feeling and experiencing right in the here and now. This in itself immediately reduces the symptoms and feelings of being “stressed”. 

3) Non-Judgment of feelings-

We can trust horses to hold no judgment against us – they accept us fully for who we are and therefore it feels safe to tell them things we find hard to reveal to other people. Horses particularly respond positively to us when we release our emotions around them. And when we acknowledge our feelings, our body and mind relaxes.

4) Relaxation of mind & body – 

When around horses we have to be body-focussed to be safe and to enable them in turn to feel safe to relate to us. This inevitably leads to us breathing more deeply, which in turn, releases more oxygen into our muscles and hence, they start to relax. 

5) Inner peace and enjoyment returns – 

By engaging with horses in someway, whether this is simply being with them or grooming or riding, again we are focussed in the moment of this experience,and again our body can’t help but relax, as our mind is not focussed on our worry-based thoughts.

Once a sense of inner calm returns then other symptoms such as depression, a feeling of isolation and anxiety naturally ease. 

6) Release of positive Energy – 

Significantly what then happens is a release of vital energy in the body, enabling us to feel, think and act more positively. 

At a deeper level I now understand that the times I feel “stressed” are when I have disconnected from a vital part of myself. What do I mean by this? Well, it could be a part of my shadow I have trouble owning, or a vital part of my essence, and therefore my power has disconnected within me and I feel very vulnerable and powerless. 

Again, here’s how the horses help me detect being “disconnected from myself” when I’m around them:- 

  • They act as if I’m not there 
  • They avoid my closeness of proximity and especially my physical touch
  • They can seem distracted, almost disorientated or dissociated themselves 
  • They’re jittery, spooky, hard to catch, groom, lead, etc 
  • If I’m riding – again they’re spooky, reluctant to go forward of deal with things they would usually be okay with, e.g. going through water or doing gates. 

My EFL practice, using some of the core Eponaquest methods, plus a range of other coaching, embodiment and spiritual practices, enables people to re-connect to all the parts of themselves. Leading ultimately to reduced stress and empowerment. Contact me to find out more about my work.

 © Angela Dunning, 2nd February 2010

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