Need to relax? Talk to a horse

Horses reflect emotions and feelings of people in their space.

Once again the holiday season is upon us. The hustle, the bustle, the rushing and along with it, the stress. This year, why don’t you take time for yourself and de-stress during this season? Stop and enjoy this magical time of year. The dilemma is how can you possibly relax with all the stress mounting around you? The answer may be found as simply as stopping by and visiting the nearest horse stable. Studies show horses help humans to relieve stress in various ways.

Horses can be likened to a large bio-feedback machine. The horse, due to the way nature designed him, actually “reads” you and your emotions and mirrors these back to you. This is helpful when we don’t realize how we are treating or interacting with others. When we are under stress we tend to tighten our bodies and our breathing. A horse will find these two behaviors very disturbing and will mirror what he feels back to the person. It’s quite humbling when you realize what you are putting out into the universe and how you contribute either positively or negatively to a situation.

When we are under stress a tendency we may exhibit is to shut down or tune out others. Human beings often will become defensive when given advice or feedback from other humans, but when a horse gives feedback, they listen.

For instance, teenagers tend to brace against any advice or input from adults, and equine therapy has proven to be very helpful with this age group. Horses reflect emotions and feelings of people in their space. Humans are often able to put on a smile or suppress emotions when interacting with other humans but horses are a mirror and always tell the truth.

For example, an angry teenager who has begun to exhibit problematic behaviors like acting out at home or school may act cool and be closed off to engaging with a human therapist or family member. However, the same teenager when exposed to a horse and asked to simply try to pet or be near the horse elicits a different response.

When given the choice, the horse may walk away or choose not to be near this angry teenager, which can cause the teen to wonder why the horse does not want to be near him or her and be able to understand that being angry is pushing people away just like it causes the horse to choose not to be near him.

Equine Assisted Therapy is fast becoming one of the most effective stress management approaches, as it implements horses into a plan to find relaxation and relief. For those who are interested in horses and especially those who have experienced less than positive results attempting to connect with people, simply sitting in a pasture or stall with a horse has great potential to offer relief of stress induced symptoms largely through the increased release of oxytocin and the domino health effect that has on the human body.

The potential for long term stress coping skills to be achieved through spending time with horses is great as the horse acts as a mirror, reflecting the truth of emotions and behaviors a person is experiencing.

Here locally, just outside of Kent, Minnesota, equine-assisted therapy at Hoof Beats for Healing, Inc., a non-profit, is offered to children and adults. At Hoof Beats for Healing, their equine-assisted therapy program combines the licensed certified councilors of Birchwood Psychological Center and the Equine Specialists and trained horses of Ricigliano Farms. Most insurances are accepted and special grants for treatment are awarded to those in need.

Hoof Beats for Healing can be contacted at Birchwood Psychological Center 218-643-9330 or Ricigliano Farms 218-557-8762. Also, if you just want to visit with a horse and witness firsthand what amazing creatures they are, call Ricigliano Farms to schedule a free tour!

Happy Trails!

LORI RICIGLIANO is a horse judge, trainer, riding instructor, equine photographer and clinician. She also hosts a weekly syndicated equine radio talk show “Hoof Beats with Lori”. Lori has held her horse judges license as a USEF / AHA — “R” rated licensed horse judge for more than 25 years and currently operates Ricigliano Farms Horse Training and Riding Academy near Kent, Minn. She can be reached by email or phone for any questions at 218- 557-8762 or riciglianofarms@gmail. com. Her website is www. RiciglianoFarms.com

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