Social distancing with your horse

The horses have come to our rescue by taking the lead role in de-stressing us. Just the simple act of grooming a horse offers amazing benefits.

The Corona Virus COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind right now. It is impacting people everywhere from the small town to the big cities. Even if you are not considered a “prepper,” you have, unfortunately, become impacted by those who are preparing for the worst. Temporary shortages of your favorite items may be a result and that causes stress and worry.

With all of this anxiety around us, readers of my weekly column will know instinctively what to do at this point. It’s time to go back to the barn to relieve that stress!

The horses have come to our rescue by taking the lead role in de-stressing us. Just the simple act of grooming a horse offers amazing benefits. The rhythmic motion of brushing, the soft munching of hay, the consistent footfalls as you ride, all of these contribute to wellness of the mind and body.

When we are forced from our usual routine of going to school, work or sports we become stressed. We lose touch of our “normal.” At this point in time, we have lost our in person social connections as we must practice social distancing; we cannot gather together in groups at restaurants, bars or gyms. That loss of community causes grief and anxiety. If we don’t know how to channel those emotions we risk anger, anxiety or even depression consuming us.

Horses are the ultimate answer to our stress as they are natural “bio-feedback” machines. This is why equine therapy works so well. Horses mirror emotions around themselves and play them back to you to analyze. This unique trait is because in the wild horses are herd animals who are considered prey. They have the instinct of flight, rather than fight, when a predator hunts them out. It’s their job to instinctively know how to figure themselves and their herd out of danger.

If we look at what we are experiencing right now in the world with the novel coronavirus COVID-19, we see that it has actually become the predator and we are the prey! We are stressed and need to find a way to escape. If we look to the horse’s example of dealing with stress we can find the answer to our own better mental health.

If we work with horses when we are anxious, the horse will act anxious, mirroring our fears. If we are calm, they are calm. I can tell instantly with a client if they have had a stressful day by watching the horse they are working with in the barn.

By observing what we are putting out into the universe we can change how we feel and deal with stress. Horses make us take a step back and breathe. We watch the horse and we realize we are also relaxing. In this small space of time, we are safe, we are loved, the horse is with us and all is ok for the moment. By creating little snippets of stress-free times we learn how to create a safe space for our emotions. We learn how to deal with stress by loosening our shoulders, breathing deeply, dropping the tongue from the roof of our mouth and relaxing our jaw.

Be safe, we will all get through this — 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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