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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

Horses Keep Us Healthy

by Mary D. Midkiff
Maverick Press Article - January 2001

Better than any psychiatry session or workout in a gym, a horse is the best form of therapy.

Your horse is a therapist. My mare is especially challenging and demanding which requires patience, trust and understanding on my part. When I go to spend time with her I know I must shift to a form of communication which uses all of my senses or neither one of us is going to have a pleasant, gratifying experience. I must let go of daily tensions, clear my mind of schedules and plans and join her in a sensory way.

If you have ever experienced a therapy session with a social worker, a mediator, a psychologist or psychiatrist you know that your hour in that office transcends anything going on outside. You are focused inward, you must live in the moment, you listen to yourself, you become circumspective about where you are in your life. Being with my horse does the same for me and offers me a meditative opportunity. Even when I am at speed with my horse or in a difficult performance situation there is meditation and focus into the partnership; a partnership that is always revealing insights.

As I researched my upcoming book, She Flies Without Wings: How Horse's Touch a Woman's Soul, time after time, book after book, poem after poem, song after song, I came across horse people with power derived from their moments with horses. I can only wish that everyone had a taste of what horses can bring into their lives.

As we leave our homes and businesses to visit a horse whether he/she is a few yards out the back door or several miles away, we enter into another dimension, a world full of flavor and perspective. It's a place that is nourishing for the soul and healthy for the body.

I am always amazed when non-horse knowing people are surprised that I sweat when I ride. A few years ago, a friend and neighbor working in his yard saw me come out of the house dressed to go riding and asked what I did for exercise. That question took me aback for a few seconds as I always think of riding as an aerobic and anaerobic workout. I told him I ride my horse 5 times per week, take long walks and stretch everyday. He said, "You mean you sweat when you ride? I always thought the horse did all the work."

This was another reminder for me that most people don't realize what the horse has to offer them in the way of a healthy lifestyle. Physically, work around the horse helps maintain fitness and riding promotes flexibility, strength and balance. Granted, as I age I have to stretch everyday and strengthen 3 times per week to prevent injury and promote conditioning, however, riding is always the stimulus to take care of my body.

Whenever I have been away from my horse for a week or so (that's about as long as I can go without getting too cranky), I come back to her feeling lessened all over. When I begin grooming her, picking up the curry, the brush, the hoofpick, the comb, the rub rags, I feel strength pour back into me and enjoy the physical exertion all over again. The layers of clothing peel off as I work around my horse as if to warm me up and get my circulation going before I put a foot in the stirrup.

I give my mare therapeutic attention too. Even before a trail ride, I walk her in hand and encourage her to bend and stretch and flex her hocks. When I mount we are both in a position to move ahead and graduate into work, whether it's climbing hills or practicing dressage and jumping.

Whether my experience with my horse has been exceptionally good that day or not so good, I still feel as though I have been taken care of and settled. My mare listens when I need to talk, she gives me perspective on nature and what issues are really important in life, she mirrors my behavior, and she reminds me tomorrow is another day for another opportunity.

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