Does being around horses and riding help with depression/anxiety/grief?

NACD

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11 January 2019
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16
Hi all,

I'm a long time reader, but a first time poster so I hope I'm posting in the right place!

I'll *try* and give you all the short version of my back story and hopefully some insight as to why I'm asking this question:

I starting riding before before I could walk (I don't actually remember that far back but it's what I'm told anyway!) my Mother had a brilliant way with horses, she really gave me the bug from an early age. We didn't have vast amounts of money; But we were always riding and around horses for as long as I could remember, despite being a qualified riding instructor herself (although not practicing when I had arrived) she said it was really important I had good tuition and ensured that I did and it paid off, by the time I was in my teens I was quite the rider and she was delighted! Mum and I were more like sisters - my Nan (her mother) bought me up, there was never a specific reason why, I just gravitated towards my Nan as a more maternal figure, she was the most loveable person to this day I have every met. When I was 15/16 my Mum was diagnosed with MS, it progressed incredibly quickly and my time spent at the yard and in the saddle was getting few and far between. Fast forward two years and Mum had really gone downhill and I just had that feeling that I should be spending as much time as possible with her, even if it meant leaving my beloved hobby completely on the back burner for a while! It was the right thing to do, she passed away when I was 18 so I'm delighted I got that time with her. I decided to take a few months off from riding, it almost felt a bit too raw not being able to speak to Mum about it. 6 months goes by and I've got myself up together with the support of my incredible family I'm back in the saddle and thinking of Mum and smiling rather than crying, hurrah! A year to the day my older brother passes away, me and my family are completely devastated, within 6 months my poor Nan has a heart attack, she survived but was diagnosed with accute heart disease and vascular dementia, my focus immediately turns to her and I couldn't even think of returning to riding as I was constantly worried, as with Mum, I cared for my Nan for as long as I could, for about 4 years in total then she really started to deteriate quite quickly, I was so sad on the days that she didn't know who I was, I had my Dad for support and we got on like a house on fire! I was the only girl so we had a real 'Daddy - Daughter' type relationship. But there's nothing like a motherly relationship, it can't be replicated, my Nan was my source of strength, my teacher, my counsellor, my role model, and above all the most perfect best friend I could ever of wished, and although she was (just about) physically here, that sassy, loving, quick witted soul wasn't, it was losing her before she died and I couldn't comprehend it, i wasn't ready for her to leave me - albeit a rather selfish way of thinking, I had no idea what I was going to do without her. That dreaded day arrived a few days later at which point I had been well and truly swallowed whole by depression. I couldn't really tell you what happened in the following months, it was a blur, thankfully I had an incredibly understanding boss who offered support which went above and beyond. My dad and I remained as close as ever, he suggested I went and stayed with him for a few months I thought it was the perfect idea and I was so looking forward to be able to see him for an extended period of time, he lived in Ireland so I would only usually get to see him for a long weekend every couple of months. We had it all planned out back in March last year, I was on the phone to him for nearly 2 hours full of excitement one evening, the first time in so long I'd felt excited, I even woke up the next morning feeling excited! That same morning I received a phone call and learned my dear old Dad had a massive heart attack and didn't make it, if I thought I'd felt before that I'd been swallowed whole by depression, but it didn't even come close to this and how I still feel now.

Suffice to say, I'm ready for a bit of fun and focus back in my life; something that I can do for me! I'm just really interested to know
 

NACD

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11 January 2019
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Oops - cut myself off there!! I'm really interested to know if anyone else has been helped with dealing with depression/anxiety and grief by being back in the saddle and around horses in general? Sorry for the incredibly long post!!
 

Red-1

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I am sorry you have had so much to deal with. In short yes, I do think that horses/ riding can help.

There is a proviso though, it is only going to help as long as it does not overwhelm you. Overwhelm could manifest in a lack of money as being round horses can be expensive. It is also really easy to over horse yourself as when you are weakened through other things then you are not as strong to deal with a horse. It could be that if you have responsibility for a horse the time commitment becomes overwhelming too.

On to the good side, horses don't care about your back story, they just take you for what you are. That can be very cathartic. The actual bond with a horse can be empowering too. Riding is a real heart raiser for many people, me included. Just being out in fresh air and having exercise is one thing, but sharing the adventure with a horse takes it to a whole new level. If you are schooling, that can be totally absorbing. The routine is great too, as are the friendships forged over horses.

It was someone famous that said something along the lines of "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man" and I do believe that to be true.

Good luck with your future horse endeavours.
 

TheOldTrout

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1 March 2015
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I agree with Red-1. Take things gently, just being around horses will help.
My mother had vascular dementia before she died. It really does feel like you lose them twice, first to dementia, then to death.
What part of the country are you in? If you're near me I might be able to give you details of organisations that could support you.
 

NACD

New Member
Joined
11 January 2019
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I am sorry you have had so much to deal with. In short yes, I do think that horses/ riding can help.

There is a proviso though, it is only going to help as long as it does not overwhelm you. Overwhelm could manifest in a lack of money as being round horses can be expensive. It is also really easy to over horse yourself as when you are weakened through other things then you are not as strong to deal with a horse. It could be that if you have responsibility for a horse the time commitment becomes overwhelming too.

On to the good side, horses don't care about your back story, they just take you for what you are. That can be very cathartic. The actual bond with a horse can be empowering too. Riding is a real heart raiser for many people, me included. Just being out in fresh air and having exercise is one thing, but sharing the adventure with a horse takes it to a whole new level. If you are schooling, that can be totally absorbing. The routine is great too, as are the friendships forged over horses.

It was someone famous that said something along the lines of "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man" and I do believe that to be true.

Good luck with your future horse endeavours.
Thanks so much for your response! I completely agree with everything you've said - It's very comforting as I can hear my mother saying "Whatever you do, don't over-horse yourself!" I've been thinking about putting the "feelers" out to see if there's anyone local that needs a hand with non-ridden or retired horses, just to get back into the environment without riding I hope will be a good place to start.

Thanks again!
 

YorksG

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Could you see if there i a local RDA group near you? This would allow you to have contact with horses and see the benefit of horses :D
 
Last edited:

ester

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I think Red puts it better than I could, for me I have found them a bit of a double edged sword. When I had mine with me I relied on him for a certain amount of 'therapy' but equally I love him so much that I would get very anxious about certain things with him even if not logical, and livery situations (although overall good) exacerrbated some of that.
Now he lives retired in somerset and Im in cambs (long story!) I miss him like crazy but I am also relieved from the associated day to day angst that I struggled with as the information I get is pre-filtered. (Though when there is something wrong it's worse being so far away). Financially I had stretched myself too which brought it's own stresses but I was determined to do it as I felt I really needed to for my health.

So a bit swings and roundabouts really.

I do think it may well bring you some focus though, expending energy is never a bad things and I also found mooching about on the yard helpful as I live on my own but it meant I saw people before/after work. Chatting wasn't expected but if you needed one someone was there and I struggle nowadays without that.
 

NACD

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11 January 2019
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I agree with Red-1. Take things gently, just being around horses will help.
My mother had vascular dementia before she died. It really does feel like you lose them twice, first to dementia, then to death.
What part of the country are you in? If you're near me I might be able to give you details of organisations that could support you.
I completely agree too, I will definitely be easing myself in gently!

Vascular dementia is such a cruel disease (not that there are any kind diseases) I had no idea there were different variations of dementia, I really hope they find a cure; it's strips sufferers of their dignity - I think that's one of things that really affected me.

I'm based in London/Surrey borders - any contacts you have would be really appreciated.

Thanks a million for your response!
 

NACD

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11 January 2019
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Could you see if there i a local RDA group near you? This would allow you to have contact with horses and see the benefit of horses :D
That's a really good idea! I'm sure there's one near me too - I will definitely check that out! Brilliant suggestion; thank you!
 

NACD

New Member
Joined
11 January 2019
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I think Red puts it better than I could, for me I have found them a bit of a double edged sword. When I had mine with me I relied on him for a certain amount of 'therapy' but equally I love him so much that I would get very anxious about certain things with him even if not logical, and livery situations (although overall good) exacerrbated some of that.
Now he lives retired in somerset and Im in cambs (long story!) I miss him like crazy but I am also relieved from the associated day to day angst that I struggled with as the information I get is pre-filtered. (Though when there is something wrong it's worse being so far away). Financially I had stretched myself too which brought it's own stresses but I was determined to do it as I felt I really needed to for my health.

So a bit swings and roundabouts really.

I do think it may well bring you some focus though, expending energy is never a bad things and I also found mooching about on the yard helpful as I live on my own but it meant I saw people before/after work. Chatting wasn't expected but if you needed one someone was there and I struggle nowadays without that.
Thanks so much for such an honest reply - it really is a balancing act isn't it! And I know how awful that anxious feeling is, especially when it starts to snowball! It's brilliant that your determination prevailed, especially as it came down to your health. Do you get to see your boy often?

I do hope it will bring back my focus, I used to be incredibly focused and determined, it's like my lights gone out; I've lost my spark - I've got more in common with a boiler on the blink than I do an average person in their late 20's!

I think I'd be the same with regards to the chatting, although seemingly small it's still a large adjustment for sure.
 
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NACD, you have been through so much, my heart goes out to you.
In horse terms, you have lost your herd.

If you are looking at non-riding horse time, you could consider an equine therapy session to get you started.
It could be a peaceful time-out among supportive people and equines, to hopefully bring some healing and some insight about where you could go next, without putting any demands on you when your strength is low.
Good luck x
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QTo5CUjCEU
 

tristar

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23 August 2010
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my friend has two sons who are mentally disabled, when they came to lunch one sunday, one of the lads was telling me how he had started riding a horse, in all the years i knew them i never saw him smile as he did when the horse was mentioned.

certain horses give off feeling that is so healing, i had a mare once who cured me from a stressy day in about 10 mins of hacking and after about half an hour i was totally relaxed and happy

so sorry for your losses. xxxxx
 

ester

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I try and get down every couple of months to keep an eye on him, and my inbox usually gets littered with bad behaviour reports though they are at least a bit less frequent now Mum isn't riding him any more she loves him really but did refuse to carry on riding him last winter - as a 25 year old native pony..

I hope that you sort something that suits you :).
 

TheOldTrout

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1 March 2015
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I completely agree too, I will definitely be easing myself in gently!

Vascular dementia is such a cruel disease (not that there are any kind diseases) I had no idea there were different variations of dementia, I really hope they find a cure; it's strips sufferers of their dignity - I think that's one of things that really affected me.

I'm based in London/Surrey borders - any contacts you have would be really appreciated.

Thanks a million for your response!
Just sent you a pm
 
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Colchester, Essex
Sorry to hear you’ve had such a hard time. If you end up with a share horse or similar try the Masterson method Bladder Meridian technique. Great for the horse and also really helps you to be in the moment, kind of like horsey mindfulness.
 

NACD

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11 January 2019
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NACD, you have been through so much, my heart goes out to you.
In horse terms, you have lost your herd.

If you are looking at non-riding horse time, you could consider an equine therapy session to get you started.
It could be a peaceful time-out among supportive people and equines, to hopefully bring some healing and some insight about where you could go next, without putting any demands on you when your strength is low.
Good luck x
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QTo5CUjCEU
Thanks so much for your response - I couldn't of put it better, I have indeed lost my herd! I remember there being a yard in Byfeelt that offers Equine therapy, so I will definitely check that one out! Thank you very much! Xx
 

NACD

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11 January 2019
Messages
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my friend has two sons who are mentally disabled, when they came to lunch one sunday, one of the lads was telling me how he had started riding a horse, in all the years i knew them i never saw him smile as he did when the horse was mentioned.

certain horses give off feeling that is so healing, i had a mare once who cured me from a stressy day in about 10 mins of hacking and after about half an hour i was totally relaxed and happy

so sorry for your losses. xxxxx
That's really encouraging to hear, how lovely for your friends son too 😊 I'm hoping this will be the start of a new beginning that's for sure! Xx
 

NACD

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Joined
11 January 2019
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Sorry to hear you’ve had such a hard time. If you end up with a share horse or similar try the Masterson method Bladder Meridian technique. Great for the horse and also really helps you to be in the moment, kind of like horsey mindfulness.
This sounds really interesting! I will definitely be looking into this! Thank you for responding 😊 Xx
 
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