One in four people will experience a mental health issue during their life, according to the charity, Mind. So, how can horses help support better mental health? Here, Kiera Boyle from the equestrian experts at Horse & Country tells us more.
Caring for your mental health is extremely important. Mental health challenges are very common, and as many of us will experience one or more at some point in our lives, finding self-care activities that work for you is vital.
These will be different for everyone, but did you know that being around horses can be a great source of positivity and support for your state of mind?
If you are a person who struggles to switch off, make time for yourself, or stop working too hard, then this could be the activity you need to give yourself some much-needed time to unwind, connect with yourself, and spend time in nature. Here, we will talk about why this is the case.
Spending time in nature
Spending time outside and allowing yourself to appreciate nature can make such a difference to your health, both mentally and physically.
According to Mind, the benefits of spending time outside include everything from improved mood, reduced stress, and increased activity to connect with a local community, increased self-esteem, and the chance to meet new people.
Horse riding is an excellent way to encourage yourself to spend more time outside, whether you are enjoying a hack on your usual route or exploring somewhere new.
Not only is riding itself a good way to explore your local landscape, but many aspects of horse care take place outside too.
When you are taking care of your horse — or helping with the horses at your local yard — you will often be active and enjoying the countryside.
All of these activities are extremely beneficial and will help boost your mood throughout the day.
Spending time with horses can also be a great way to raise your confidence.
This is for a variety of reasons — firstly, overcoming problems in your riding lessons, stable care, and hacks can all be very confidence-boosting.
All the little challenges you encounter while horse riding can be a great self-esteem boost.
The fact that horses communicate non-judgmentally and non-verbally is also extremely useful.
It makes horses very relaxing to spend time around, and for those who find social interaction stressful, it can be a good way to reduce loneliness and develop your social skills.
With their ability to learn, social personalities, and honest feedback during communication, horses can make great companions.
Getting some exercise
While it can be tempting to be more sedentary between work, studying, and socialising, it is important to incorporate some physical activity into your week.
Horse riding is a great option for this because it is a full-body workout, engaging most muscles in your body at once — including some smaller muscles that you may not use much during everyday life.
Taking part in a sport like horse riding on a regular basis can help you to build up strength, stamina, and flexibility, while also helping with your mental health.
Physical activity releases endorphins that can boost our mood and can also help regulate our sleep cycle.
So, be sure to take some time in a busy workday to do some exercise for yourself.
This can also be particularly beneficial if you do a lot of manual labour involving repetitive movement, as it can help stretch out muscles and work your body more evenly.
Staying in the moment
When we get caught up in all the busy considerations of the work week, we can find ourselves thinking either about the past or the future and worrying even more.
This is particularly common for people with anxiety, who often get caught up in the future.
So it is really useful to have an activity that encourages you to focus more intently on the present.
Horse riding and spending time with horses is a good way to focus on the present as they provide instant and honest feedback on our actions, can often mirror human behaviour and will engage with human instruction.
Whether you want to try a countryside hack, a lesson, a dressage event or a jumping course, horse riding will encourage you to stay in the moment and enjoy yourself.
Horse riding is an excellent activity for supporting your mental health and boosting your mood.
It is important to find measures you can take to care for yourself during busy weeks and long hours, and spending time with horses offers many positive benefits.
Find a way of engaging with horses that you enjoy, whether that’s taking part in events or just getting out onto the local lanes.
Kiera Boyle is the social media manager for Horse & Country. She is also a BHS Stage 3 accredited professional coach and freelance writer for several equestrian print publications.
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