Did you ever wonder why we (some of us) continue to mess with horses? I find myself frequently wondering about that. After all, for transportation they’ve been replaced by cars trucks and trains. As for horsepower, we’ve now got electricity fueled by coal, natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear power plants. So what do we need horses for?
Of course there are a few holdouts in the ranching business who actually use horses for cattle work.They’re also pretty handy for getting around in feedlots efficiently. But more and more, fences, four wheelers, and sacks of range cubes are taking over even some of those jobs.
Well, you might have guessed by now, it’s a trick question.
I have finally come up with what I consider to be a legitimate answer.
Horses have trotted their way into the industry and profession of therapy!
Horse programs are now popping up all over the country for wounded warriors, the nation’s veterans returning from foreign wars with physical and mental injury. It turns out that horses not only exert a calming effect by their movement, but solving equestrian puzzles engages these veteran’s minds. This helps them re-organize their thoughts and emotions in order to reintegrate into civilian life.
In addition, horse programs have been pivotal in therapy for children with developmental problems and genetic problems. Often kids with intractable seizures begin to have fewer episodes once they begin equine therapy. Recently an equestrian program for children afflicted with autism disorders has blossomed. These kids have also “blossomed” as it has been discovered that cantering develops a part of the brain involved with speech.
Another type of therapy is the prison system’s programs utilizing prisoners to train mustangs. This has true dual purpose: making otherwise unused mustangs into useful horses, while re-programming and rehabilitating those prisoners. In addition to the occasional parolee who finds a job in the horse sport industry, these programs develop a new approach to problem-solving which appears to reduce recitivism (return to prison for repeated criminal offenses).
Let’s not forget the therapeutic effect of attending a big horse show, with exhibitions of showmanship and even cattle work. There is also a whole industry of competition horsemanship, rodeo, roping, and even horse racing. These all involve expenditures of time, money, and effort that give participants something to work on to distract them from their daily jobs and worries!
Finally, what could be more therapeutic than a trail ride on a trusted mount in a beautiful countryside, with affable friends under a clear blue sky!