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Anxiety when around my horse

Hi Franklin.

I understand about establishing a relationship with a horse, being their leader etc. But here's my question:

My tendency as a person is to have anxiety (in general), and depression type mood swings. Some days I'm scared. Other days I'm confident. Some days I'm feeling low etc. Because I'm not super stable in mood or temperament, should I just not have a horse? I've had horses for 8 yrs. and not done very well being the leader consistently. I'm better on some days than others. I do fine when I'm taking lessons. Now I have a 13 hand pony that I've had for 2 yrs. He is spooky and can get high strung. I'm sure I'm not helping him. I do ground work with him. He is quite responsive with that. He knows how to lunge... walk, trot, canter, reverse, whoa. I can ride him in the arena fine. Outside of the arena he is tense whether with other horses or going out alone.

So, since I'm not a consistently calm confident person, should I give up on having a horse/pony that I can ride out alone on? My pony is kind of hi strung. Should I try again with a more calm tempered equine? I can ride "beginner" horses fine. ..lesson horses. I read some of the archives and you suggested someone do ground work to gain confidence. I can do this, but just have a tendency (physiologically) to be nervous (startle easily). May be I'm just not cut out for this activity? But I do like riding. It seems to pick up my mood.. trotting for periods of time.


Hi Louisa,

It is true horses tend to pick up what is going on for the humans, or any others, with them. Some horses are more ‘easy going’ and tolerant of mood swings and nervousness in humans. They have personalities just as we do. What I am not picking up from your communication is any reference to a ‘relationship’ with your horse/pony. Seems you either work the horse or ride the horse. So, it appears you actually remain somewhat detached from the horse itself. If you “have anxiety” generally and “depression type mood swings” relationship with a horse can be as good as counseling and better than drugs. But you must allow the relationship and have the conscious intention to develop it. For folks who do this, it gets them out of their own heads and relaxes their minds. We can become so self-absorbed in our minds and what is going on inside of ‘us’ that this becomes our habitual way of being which is not so good I think. Developing the ability and habit of reaching out to another being (a horse for example), through opening our hearts, can release us and free us from habitual thought patterns that work against our well-being. But we have to make the choice to do this. You are not a captive of your mind, although you might think you are. Your ego wants you to be depressed and have problems and anxieties. The ego feeds off of this and wants to perpetuate this. If you can decide to open your heart instead of listening to your head all the time, you may find a better life experience.

Horses are universally known to help and assist the well-being of humans. But the human has to make a conscious effort and desire the relationship. You seem to be living on the surface and it’s a rough surface. So, I don’t quite believe your statement that “I understand about establishing a relationship with a horse, being their leader etc.” You may get it intellectually but it would seem you do not really embrace it or consciously put it into practice. Also, like a runner gets an endorphin rush from running, you are getting the same from the trotting on your horse. Consider going to work out at a gym as that can help with anxiety and mood swings a lot.

Perhaps this is not the best choice of horses for you. I cannot say really. This is up to you. But rather than giving up on horses and allowing ‘the dark side’ to take over and listening to the “I can’t” chatter in your mind, I suggest either focusing more on the relationship with this horse (try siting in the paddock with the horse and reading a book for openers, and ‘be’ with the horse more than ‘doing’ something with the horse) and/or eventually seeing about a different horse that is perhaps calmer by nature than the current one is. But if you give up on horses I think that is not the best choice.

BTW, I provide phone coaching (life coaching). Perhaps you might give this some thought. I wish you the best always and do hope you will keep in touch with me and keep me up to date. Thank you for being candid. Reaching out is the first step. Keep well, keep happy, it’s a choice you can make actually.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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