Thursday, December 31, 2009

Horses are Like Chocolate: Costly in Some Ways but So Good for You

They say eating chocolate is like a time warp. It lasts only a second on the lips but an ETERNITY on the hips! That's why some of us stay away from chocolate.

Yet nutritionists now tell us that chocolate is good for us. When we eat good quality dark chocolate we get the benefits of a happy mood, reduced blood pressure, a rich source of minerals, and a boost in the "good" HDL cholesterol. So chocolate, though it can be costly in terms of fat, is also good for us in many ways.

I say the same goes for horses, at least for us horse addicts. Without a doubt, horses can be expensive hay burners who are expensive to feed. And yet, the benefits of being around horses are undeniable. I just came in from feeding my herd of five horses. The temperature was a chilly three below zero, and the wind was howling. I hauled and tossed hay, fixed a little fence, and de-iced the water tank. I FEEL GREAT!

My conclusion? Horses, like chocolate, can be costly but are sooooo are good for you! But don't take my word for it, take the word of scientists and researchers who have studied exactly how and why horses are good for us.

3 Ways Horses Benefit Humans
You have probably read about the use of horses as therapy for the handicapped. The benefits for people are easy to see in that situation. But horses are great for everyday horse addicts, too. Here are three ways horses benefit us humans.

#1: Horses Assist Physically Disabled Humans
You have probably heard about "hippotherapy," which is the use of the horse's natural movement to help physically-disabled people. Researchers at the Washington University Program in Occupational Therapy studied the effects of this kind of therapy on children with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, and concluded that it works. Specifically, they proved that the rhythm of the horse's gait "improves both head and trunk stability and upper extremity function" in these children. See? Horses are good for humans.

OK, but what about if you don't have a physical challenge. Can you still say that horses, like chocolate, are good for you? Yup. Keep reading.
#2: Horses as Mirrors for Humans
Have you ever gone out to catch your horse in pasture only to have her run from you? After 45 minutes of chasing your horse while soothingly murmuring, "Come here, you little #$**&@!," did you suddenly realize that you started out in a bad mood? Have you ever busted out laughing after realizing this? Your horse, who sensed your mood immediately (probably before you ever opened the pasture gate), wanted nothing to do with your "bad vibe," and ran.

If you are a student of the Law of Attraction, then you know that the happier you feel, the better your life works. By showing you that you've got a bad vibe going, your horse is doing you a favor. And by persisting in not being caught, even though you are cussing her out (in a soothing tone of voice, of course), your horse really tries to reflect your state of being back to you. That's a big favor ... how many humans do you know would do you this kind of favor while you're cussing them out?

Many addiction rehab places are now using horses as therapy for this very reason. Members of the program are asked to enter an arena with a halter and catch a loose horse. The horse mirrors the person's attitude and vibration by walking away, turning his back, or allowing himself to be caught. Many times the person can't catch the horse at all, and the event becomes a starting point for discussing the person's way of approaching another being, and so forth.

So horses tell us when we have a lousy vibe in no uncertain terms. I ask you: would you rather have your horse tell you this or pay a shrink to tell you this? I'll take a view of my horse's butt speeding off into the sunset any day!

#3: Horse Care and the Cortisol Connection
You have probably heard about the negative effects of cortisol on our physical health. Cortisol is a hormone released in our bodies when we are stressed, and it increases blood sugar and blood pressure. Back in the cave man days, cortisol was what allowed the "fight or flight" reflex to occur, so that we could escape from predators.

These days, we get flooded with cortisol just by living life. Studies have shown that our everyday lives are truly that stressful. That's a bummer because studies show that this hormone breaks down muscle tissue, compromises immunity, and plays a role in many chronic health conditions. Oh yes, it can also make you fat!

The good news? If you personally take care of your horse everyday, meaning you lug bales of hay around or muck out your horse's pen, you are reducing the levels of cortisol in your body. Scientific studies demonstrate that exercise decreases cortisol in the body produced by stress.

So see? Your horse is truly physically beneficial to your health. It's a scientific fact!

Horses Just Make Us Happy
At the end of the day, horses just make us happy. There's really no need to explain it ... and in fact explaining it takes away from the joy of it, in some ways. One of the better known aphorisms of the esoteric philosopher Gurdjieff may explain it best:

"Practice love on animals first; they react better and more sensitively."

The human world is often complicated and fraught with multiple conflicting motivations. Horses are deeply sensitive and yet very direct. When I practice love on horses (or dogs or cats) I am immediately rewarded. I am made happy. I am blessed with inner peace.

So whether there is wind or ice or snow or sleet, I'll be out there with my horses, throwing hay over the fence (and having it blown right back at me), de-icing water tanks, and generally having a great time. It costs a bundle to care for my horses, but they ARE truly good and good for me. You agree?

End Note: Reducing the Cost of Horse Health Care
Just as an end note, let me add that I'm always on the look out for ways to reduce my horse health care and management bill. Some of the ways I've come up with include:

Feeding Tips for a Skinny Horse
Horse Goo: The Horse Health Care Stuff That Covers All Bases
Healing Your Horse with a "Hands On" Approach
Cheap Horse Activities in a Cruddy Economy (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
Footing the Bill with Multiple Streams of Income (email me for details on this one)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Photo credit: Free Digital Photos


  1. GREAT POST! You got it right, horses ARE good for us in so many ways! I like to remind my husband that horses are cheaper than Psychiatrists!

  2. I love that picture of you standing on the horse. Can I use it on my blog and link to your blog? Check it out,

  3. Great post. I found you in a round about way through another blog, but am clicking the follow button! When I was debating on whether or not I could afford to buy my horse, my mother told me very nearly the same thing that Tracey said, "horses are cheaper than therapy." Amen to that!

  4. Hey y'all - thanks for leaving comments,

    @Tracey - Glad you agree that horses are good for us and CHEAP for the price of tranquility.,

    @barb - you are welcome to use the pic for your blog and I love your blog, too!

    @GunDiva - Your momma was RIGHT!

    Zen Cowgirl