A concept that, before my anorexia, I didn’t even knew existed.
Therapy…with a horse?
But it was part of my program at inpatient, and in all honestly, it really did help me a lot, even though I may not have wanted to admit it at the time.
If you haven’t spent much time with a horse, it’s hard to fully grasp the nature of these gentle giants. I mean, they’ve been immortalized in movies such as the free, wild spirit of Black Beauty, or the fight-til-the-end Seabiscuit. And those are definitely aspects of a horse.
But there’s something more. Something about a horse that taps into the part of your soul that, when you’re recovering from an eating disorder, really needs healing: Learning how to love.
Horses respond to love. They are incredible “feelers,” which, TBH if I had never spent any time with a horse, I would be rolling my eyes right now, a la Liz Lemon.
Thank you, Tina Fey 🙂
But in all seriousness, horses are remarkably empathetic — they feel every emotion that you’re having. They can sense if you’re anxious, if you’re scared, if you’re angry, if you’re nervous, you name it, they can tell.
And you know what else they can feel?
A horse, it needs to be loved.
It needs to be nurtured and taken care of.
It needs to feel safe, and it needs to build trust to know that you’re not going to hurt it or neglect it.
Now, I want you to go back, and replace all those “it’s” with “you’s.”
The way you take care for a horse is exactly how you need to take care of yourself.
Would you treat a horse the way that you treat yourself?
Seriously. Take a cold, hard, honest look at how you treat yourself – your body, your mind, your spirit. Would you treat a gentle, loving, sweet, defenseless horse that way?
When you begin your recovery journey, your body is used to being abused. It is used to being neglected, malnourished, overworked, uncared for, lied to, isolated, bullied, hated, and abandoned by you.
That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it is the truth. That’s an eating disorder in a nutshell.
So when you begin your recovery, your body has to learn to trust you again. It has to learn that you aren’t going to be mean to it again.
It’s like interacting with a horse. You have to approach it cautiously and gently. You first have to put your hand out for it to smell.
Then when you approach it, you need to be gentle, and treat it with respect. When you move around the horse, you have to put your hand on its rump to let it know that you’re walking behind it, so it doesn’t spook.
You have to feed it and water it. Speak kindly and gently to it. Love it. And when you do, the bond between you and the horse is unbreakable. It is something that goes beyond words – it is truly, love.
I invite you to just think about that. Think about your recovery as building a relationship with your body, just like you would a horse. A beautiful, majestic, gentle horse.
Equine therapy taught me a lot of things. Not only was it healing to be out in nature, and have the wind in my hair, but it was also instrumental in remembering how to love and care for another living being. A lesson that translates to myself and my relationship with my body.
It is a long journey, and I can’t say I’m 100% there yet. But I am on my way. One day at a time.