How Can Horses Boost Your Mental Health?

Anyone who has ever been to a horse camp like Kiah Park in their childhood knows how healing the company of a horse can be. At camp, children develop a bond with the horses, meet new friends, and learn to make independent decisions and choices. However, many of us probably don’t realise the extent to which being with horses can give our mental health a boost, and even help us connect to our spiritual side.

Horses boost psychological health

Horses currently play a vital role in helping promote physical, occupational, and psychological growth in people with a plethora of conditions, including anxiety, depression, autism, ADD, and dementia. Horses have many similar behavioural patterns to humans, which makes it easy to build powerful bonds with them. Simply by touching, riding, or grooming a horse, people of all ages can build important skills, including communication and self-confidence.

Strength and vulnerability

The sheer size and majesty of a horse make it easy to build trust… the horse is seen as a protective force, but also a powerful one. It mirrors an individual’s own strength, as well as vulnerability. In the human-equine connection, each depends on the other and makes gains. For humans, these include a reduction in stress hormone levels, an improvement in mood, and a decrease of symptoms of anxiety and depression. In one study published in the Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, researchers found that working with horses significantly reduced levels of stress hormones in youths, as measured in their saliva.

Horses and spirituality

Spirituality has been the subject of various studies, which show that those who are spiritual enjoy greater happiness, live longer, and are better able to withstand life’s vicissitudes. Spirituality, of course, is a far wider concept than religion. It embraces a belief in some kind of greater force that connects all human beings. Studies have shown that spirituality not only enables us to find more purpose from our lives but also serves as a buffer in tough times, especially when we are part of a community. Philosophers such as Carl Jung insisted that ignoring our spiritual side instills a sense of loneliness and insignificance, especially as urban areas grow in size.

In nature, we can find powerful symbols of spirituality, such as in the beauty of a horse. When we ride through lush surrounds, it is almost impossible not to feel our mood begin to lift. Studies carried out on nature have shown that the great outdoors enables us to reach a mindful state: one in which our heart and breathing rates lower and our stress levels plummet. With the company of a horse, we can benefit from all nature has to offer while in the company of one of the most majestic animals on the planet.

The extent to which a horse can help us feel the full joy of nature, cannot be over-emphasized. There are few other activities that wield benefits such as those bestowed by the benefit of connecting with an animal that is so similar to ourselves, yet so mysterious all at once. Riding through meadows and trees, it is easy to feel that life does have profound meaning in the here and now.