Loving a Horse

Equine therapy. IMG_1150

A concept that, before my anorexia, I didn’t even knew existed.

Therapy…with a horse?

WTF, mate?

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.

I recently went horseback riding, and all those memories and emotions from inpatient and my interactions with the horses came flooding back to me. And so I decided to write this post.

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.”

You need to be loved. You need to be nurtured and taken care of, and feel safe and trust that you won’t be neglected or hurt.

The way you take care for a horse is exactly how you need to take care of yourself.

It is the key to recovery: loving yourself – Building a relationship with yourself that is based on love, and nurturing interactions, and gentleness.

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?

Even in recovery, I’m going to gamble that there may still be one or two areas in your life that might not fit that bill. I know for me there are.

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.

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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.

16 responses to “Loving a Horse”

    • They’re so gentle and loving. Seriously, even to just visit a stable and be around them, I hope you get a chance! Definitely worth the effort to go:) thanks for your love, beautiful xoxo

  1. I go in and out of horse phases. Really I would have one of my own in a heartbeat if they weren’t so bloody expensive. I used to volunteer at a rescue place, and usually the abuse we saw was in the form of malnourishment/starvation. To see them come in all bones protruding and listless and to, over time, gain weight and their real personalities coming back. It was always such a mirror to the recovery process for an ED. They became so much more interesting as they ate and gained weight-not always ‘nicer’ and often actually quite stubborn-but they had actual personality and they lost that sense of defeat they had at the beginning. So amazing.

    • wow that sounds like an incredible experience to be able to watch that transformation. That’s one thing about an ED that not many people realize, is the degree to which your personality deteriorates as your body deteriorates. That’s why my family always talks about how glad they are to have the “old me” back. The goofy, silly, off-the-wall me. Thanks for this comment, and I’m glad you stopped by!

  2. Your invitation to “Think about your recovery as building a relationship with your body, just like you would a horse. A beautiful, majestic, gentle horse.” is sooooo insightful. I’ve never quite thought about it that way before but it’s true. During recovery you have to become truly reacquainted with your body and learn to love it which can be a slow, steady process. Thanks for making me think! 🙂

    • So so true. I would love to get a dog, but I don’t have a roommate so I don’t think it would be good to be gone from it during the day. But i’m just realizing that it would probably be very beneficial for my journey to self-love. thanks for your sweet words! xox

  3. How serendipitous that you should write about horses. My daughter has worked with horses for years. One barn she worked at in Ohio had an equine therapy program for mentally disabled folks of all kinds. One severely autistic boy would never talk, never say a word to anyone. Not even his parents. But when they put him on a horse and led him around the arena, every time he passed his dad…he said, “Hello.”

    You should enjoy this YouTube video too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6r0FAE9os0

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