Health coach Lucy Mundy tells Stealth Health why horseplay is good for you.
For many years as a horse owner and rider, I always appreciated the benefits of time spent with my horse, on both my physical and mental health. I was determined to help others do the same. Seven years ago, setting up a riding and equine assisted therapy centre on the Isle of Wight was a dream come true. The aim: to help people improve their lives through horses. To increase confidence and self-esteem and ultimately for people to be happier and healthier.
Spending time with horses can make you feel great
Over the years I have been lucky to meet many wonderful people. I have laughed and cried with them and enjoyed being part of their journey. I owe the success of this process to the horses that I have been privileged to love and work alongside. Working with horses is more active and interactive than most forms of therapy. If you love the outdoors and want some time to relax and reflect, spending time with horses can make you feel really good.
Take the reins to change
Today I am working with a new client, Louise. The yard is calm, and although there is a chill in the air, the warm breath of the horses and noses nudging you for attention give it a warming and homely feel. We have time for Louise to get to know the horses and find a friend to work with. I introduce the horses, and a wide beam crosses her face as she strokes the soft velvet noses.
One particularly friendly horse checks us out, nuzzling into our hair which brings about a chuckle of laughter. This non-verbal communication happens with horses just as it does with people you meet. You will connect with a particular horse, just as you would another person. To begin with, you may not understand why you feel this connection. Usually, it will become more apparent, and you may see similarities in personality or behaviours.
Louise decides that Dolly, a big bay mare with a kind face and rather oversized ears, is her friend of choice for today’s session. To bond, horses will groom each other, and this is our first task. We learn as much as we can from each other and gain trust and friendship. Dolly’s expression is full of joy as Louise finds her favourite spot to scratch!
We then tack up and take horse and rider out into the arena. Here we learn the basic control of the horse and being physically aligned with the horse’s movement. “It’s a lot harder than it looks,” says Louise. It takes a lot of physical and mental concentration to balance, yet remain relaxed.
It is the perfect exercise to build core strength, suppleness, and coordination. At the same time, your focus is only on the moment, and life’s worries fade quickly into the distance. Meeting the challenge of learning new skills, facing fears and becoming absorbed in the friendship between horse and human leaves you feeling accomplished, with a smile that continues into your everyday life.
Louise, like many people who have experienced traumas, especially during childhood, can struggle with their emotions, and feel unable to cope. This can lead to long-term physical and psychological consequences. Equine assisted therapy and riding helps people reconnect with their identity and regain coherence in their life story.
Horses are incredibly kind creatures, being around them can improve your communication skills, self-understanding, and help you to find your place in the world. Louise’s feedback was incredibly positive. “It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see the horses again. I feel more relaxed than I have for a long time and have learned so much.” I love making progress with my clients with the help of my equine friends, and feedback like this makes what I do so worthwhile.
Lucy Mundy MSc, BSc (Hons) Psychologist, equine assisted therapist, and health coach. Working locally at Island Equus (www.islandequus.com) and across the UK as a health coach, helping improve people’s wellbeing and fitness with online coaching and support www.lucymundy.com. Call 07825293139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.