Opinion: How horses can be good for your mental health



When you think of a service/therapy animal, you most likely think of a dog or cat. However, many overlook another animal that is comforting and therapeutic. Horses, over the years, have become less a part of our daily lives. But they are amazing animals who deserve to be recognized – and can help people. 

As a rider myself, I spend time with horses a few times a week. Being around them makes me feel at home, and comfortable. Many people who have spent a significant amount of time with horses would most likely agree with me.

Mother and animal advocate Lauren Hachey has been around horses for a significant part of her life. She says, “Horses can be very therapeutic. They give unconditional love without any judgement.” Even though they are big – and may appear intimidating – horses are loving creatures. “They are gentle giants,” says Hachey. 

I’ve met many young kids who have a form of a mental/physical disability through the barn. Although it might be more difficult for them to ride, often we notice a change in their behavior once they connect with a horse. 

Horses are smarter than most people might think. If someone seems nervous, or they have never ridden before, horses are usually able to see that. There are so many horses out there who are willing to take it easy, and help a new rider feel comfortable and confident. 

Even if someone is struggling with anxiety or depression, horses bring out the best in them.  Horses are good at showing humans that their feelings are valid, and that they are understood. For someone who is struggling mentally, this is great to know. 

Unlike other animals, horses are able to immediately imitate a person’s behavior. If a rider seems nervous or anxious, their horse will most likely feel the same way and be more alert. However, a care-free rider who is there to have fun will often inspire a horse to be well-behaved and in a good mood.

For some people, horseback riding is a competitive and stressful sport. Even for them, they can find comfort in spending time at their barn. Oakmont senior and experienced show jumper, Nicole Hillman, says, “Sometimes, If I’m having a bad day, I’ll hang around the barn instead of heavy training.” 

There are several horse farms in the area. A few of them are Stowe Farm, Emerald Hollow Farm, and Berkshire Horseback Adventures. 

Overall, I think that horses are a great way to better yourself, and to be a happier person. Seeing a horse that you’ve bonded with weekly, or even monthly is something you can look forward to.