Throughout my life, I have found that animals make the best companions. Their comforting way of silent compassion, or playful encouragement to give them pets, animals have a way of putting a smile on your face and warmth in your heart. On my family farm, we have a menagerie of animals: goats, sheep, cows, chickens, cats, dogs, horses and many more. Although I have a connection with all the creatures in our care, I have a special bond with horses.
I think what strikes a chord with me is the relationship that is built with a horse is earned through trust, patience, and training. These gentle giants can be the epitome of freedom as they gallop through a field. Then there are calming and comforting moments, like when we are forehead to forehead after I take off their bridle and brush off the dust off their coat. There truly is an unmatched friendship that blooms with time spent together.
These magnificent creatures are not just pretty to look at. Riding horses has proven to be beneficial in many ways. For therapeutic purposes, horses and humans can form a partnership that can have social and cognitive benefits. The emotional connection and release of stress when riding can be liberating for both the horse and the rider. There are also a variety of ways that Equine Therapy can be helpful for mental and physical health, occupational therapy, and notably with riders with special needs. For more information about EAP or Equine-assisted psychotherapy click here.
When I was a young girl, I went to a horse camp in Maine where I learned how to drive a horse and carriage. One of the most important lessons that I uphold to this day was the routine of waking up early on cold winter mornings to groom, to feed and prep the horses before a long day of training exercises. The techniques and commands I learned to ride gave me the confidence to care for my own horses. When I returned home to my family farm, I had a deeper appreciation for their power and intelligence, as well as a new skill!
As I grew up and found a passion for travel photography, I looked for unique locations and experiences to capture and immerse myself in. There were two trips in particular that were both memorable and equestrian adventures. One of them was a trip to a most memorable dude ranch in Montana. Against the monumental backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, I was shown the western lifestyle where horses enjoy both work and play. Witnessing the relationship between men and women who rely on their horses for a living showed their testament to training and their deep trust for one another.
The other remarkable equestrian adventure was to Assateague Island in Maryland. Folklore has it that the horses of Assateague Island were survivors from a shipwreck off the Virginia Coast. Through time, they have returned to their wild nature and roam the miles of protected land that is a careful managed nature preserve. Because there are so few places that have wild horses, the island has become a tourist destination, but with proper safety precautions in place they ensure the animals have as little human interaction as possible. Photographing and witnessing horses in a wild environment, when I had lived with tamed horses for most of my life, was truly enlightening. To learn more about Assateague’s horses click here.
Each horse has a unique personality: some are silly, some are affectionate, some want to gallop as far as the horizon. With proper care, love, and training, horses can give their all to their humans. If you’re having a bad day or just need a comforting presence, a horse can be that companion for you. I also think that horseback riding is not only a fun activity but one that can instill peace and appreciation for their abilities. Something we could all learn from horses is to live in the moment and appreciate the space to run free.
Do you have a horse or are you an equestrian enthusiast? I would love to hear your experiences with horses. Please feel free to share your stories, comments, and suggestions for future horseback adventures!
Thanks for reading,