Wow! OMG! Totally Awesome!
Those are the words that first come to mind as I write, recalling my ride today.
Today I met a Morgan horse named Candy. I couldn’t believe her name was the same as the Appaloosa that I rode last summer. I loved that Appaloosa, who was a very spunky girl and today, I loved Candy the Morgan horse, who was tender, sweet and did exactly everything I asked her to do, and then some! I mean, some things I asked her to do I didn’t realize I had asked for because I’m an amateur rider.
The trainer showed me how Candy was keen to my every move, such as barely moving my foot in the stirrup, which told Candy to slow down a little. Candy was sweet and intelligent.
I also learned that gently pulling back one side of the reins, while giving a little on the other side controlled Candy’s speed during a trot. Instead of bouncing up and down, afraid of falling, I was able to move gracefully with her. This was an awesome feeling. It was exciting too. It was most likely my favorite part of the lesson.
The trainer told me I was doing a great job. She said she was surprised at how well I did during the trot. I’m sure she had no clue how much this meant to my self-esteem hearing her say that. I felt good about myself in that moment. It was a healthy sense of control in a time when most everything in my life feels completely out of my control.
Aside from enjoying the ride there is a relationship that you develop with a horse and it doesn’t take long — only a few minutes. It’s amazing how much a horse listens. The simple act of holding out my pinkies, which I didn’t know about, slowed Candy down.
While I’m certainly tired from the ride, there is a smile on my face as I write. My spirit feels good. I don’t feel like a complete failure. Candy sure helped me.
“Morgan horses are kind of like dogs,” the trainer had said when I first arrived at the farm. I walked through the barn and met the other horses while she saddled up Candy for me. One of the Morgans especially reminded me of dogs. She kept nuzzling her big pretty head up against the bars appearing to desire a scratch behind the ears, just like a dog. I gave her a scratch and she kissed my hand, just like a dog.
I had a great time!
Now I must go rest and dream of my meeting with one of the sweetest horses in the world!
Candy lives at a farm in North Carolina. This farm does not offer or include in their lessons equine-assisted therapy. Any therapy I received I captured on my own.
I’m not a doctor or a medical professional, nor am I offering advice on treatment for depression. I simply want to share my experience and tell how riding a horse, along with the relationship that is created, is great therapy for me in my journey to fight chronic sadness, frustration, illness, grief, and often, a loss of interest in things I would otherwise enjoy.
(update on Monday, March 22, 2010) — Lots of stiffness and sore muscles since my ride, but today I’m doing better. I stayed in bed most of the 24 hours after the ride. I also had to take anti-inflammatory medication but to me, it was totally worth it.
Physical strength isn’t a requirement to ride on a gentle horse. I didn’t have to lift the saddle, which was a good thing and I chose to trot, which I’m sure added to the aftermath of pain.
Compared to the side-effects I have from antidepressant medications, the short-lived flare of the sore muscles and fatigue is not a big deal to me.
The extra pain will go away and the gifts Candy and her trainer gave me will stay.