How A Horse Gave Me Clarity

I rode on a horse for the first time in my life the other day. I wanted to do it for several reasons – I’ve never really been around animals much, I wanted to do something new and different, and I wanted to understand the connection between the human spirit and that of a horse’s. They say horses can sense our emotions, our states of being and I wanted to see for myself what the horse would see about me.

My experience raising my son, who has severe emotional issues, has been extremely challenging. We have gone through turmoil, chaos, anxiety, anger, pain, stress. This state of being has been our existence. Was the horse going to sense this right away about me? If so, how was the horse going to react to me? Was my horseback riding experience going to be stressful and frustrating or could something new teach me a new way of being?

The instructor, who was also a licensed therapist using equine therapy in her practice, talked about how horses in particular are uniquely effective in teaching us how to rewire our brains. Horses are often used to help those who have lived with a great deal of stress and trauma. Before our ride, she asked us to identify what it was in our lives that we needed to address. For me, it was many things – who I was as a person and who I was becoming and who I was as a mother and the mother I could still yet be. I looked at the horse, who was all tranquil and powerful, and I realized then and there that my constant firmness and resistance towards my son’s issues were not effective. I needed a new approach. It was clear in that moment that I needed to be gentler, kinder and more empathic – while still being firm and setting boundaries – towards my son. All that my son has known is rejection, criticism, missed expectations and failure. It was time to try something different.

The instructor taught us how to approach a horse, how to talk to it, touch it, breathe with it, turn it, stop it, feel its 4-step rhythm. Throughout that ride up the mountain, there were moments of worry and trepidation but I simply surrendered to the horse and trusted that it would take me on the ride that I allowed myself to have. I swayed in the saddle to his 4-step beat, I hummed to him, I felt his power and his heat, I went up and down the mountain synchronized to his rhythm. That ride was pure exhilaration, fun and spiritual connection – not just with the horse but with myself.

I see why horses are so special. I also see now how my approach to my son needs to change in order to help him through his life and his challenges. It is really hard raising a child with mental health issues. And it is very easy to fall back on the same reactions and interactions of frustration, exasperation, disappointment and anger. If your relationship is in a repetitive state of stress and difficulty, especially from raising someone suffering from an emotional or mental illness, try something new, maybe even horseback riding. The experience will give you new insights and hopefully some effective tools to apply to your circumstances. And as it happened with me, perhaps it will reflect a profound learning about you, your child and your life together.

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