Meet Isabella, or Izzy. She is a 17 year old Arabian that I have been riding for the past 5 years. I decided to go riding at a state park with a friend of mine and since it was such a glorious day (mid-70’s and clear) decided to go on a 3 hour ride. The reason I call her my therapy horse are for a couple of reasons.
In an earlier post I spoke of the simbiotic relationship between effective regulation of diabetes and the health of your mind, body, and spirit. This day was a mental health day. Today Izzy is my therapist. Not all therapy happens in an office involving a therapist, today Izzy provided everything I needed to feel refreshed mentally and revived physically.
The first reason she is my ‘therapy’ horse is because she shares a similar disease that I have. Early on she developed an intolerance for sweet grass which put her in danger of foundering. This is a condition in which the horse is not able to properly metabolize the sugars in grass and can kill the animal. Her owner has to be very careful to regulate her grass input and has been on a special diet for most of her life. She is thriving and is one of the most spirited horses I have ever ridden. So the fact she has a type of diabetes makes her special to me.
The second reason she is my therapy horse is she and I have a good relationship of trust. This was forged several years ago when I was riding her in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we were coming down a mountain that was pretty steep with a beautiful creek at the bottom of the mountain. I was with 7 other riders and we decided to water the horses when we got to the creek. As we were decending the mountain my saddle began to loosen. I made a mental note to tighten up the cinch when we got to the creek. When we got to the creek, Izzy decided she wanted to go into the creek, but only her front legs. This caused the saddle, and me, to pitch forward sliding up her neck causing me to slide down her neck, taking a bath in the cold mountain stream. I was very concerned she would panic and trample me. Initially I curled up waiting for the 1000 pound animal to land on me. Instead of trampling me, I looked up at her and she was standing right next to me with her nose in my face as if to say ‘are you going to get up and help me get untangled from this saddle?’ She stood completely still waiting for me to help her. I knew we would be friends forever that day!
Horses are incredibly smart, I have been around them most of my life. When a horse trusts you, it is one of the most rewarding relationships you can have with any animal. Here you have one of the most powerful animals on earth working with you instead of against you. It is a powerful bond. Today, we rode up hills and into creeks, in meadows and fields. We ran a lot and we walked alot, but it was theraputic for me to work with Izzy and feel her excitement when it was time to run and her waiting for me to give her the signal to run.
I absolutely loved today Izzy is my friend and my therapist. It was a good day.
As a person with a chronic disease, I need days like today. I felt very connected to this beautiful horse and to nature around us. We saw a little fawn running up the path, bald eagles flying around, and just enjoyed the beauty nature was displaying. How can you not feel refreshed after a day like this? I encourage everyone to find something that refreshes your body, mind, and spirit. It is a nice vacation from the tightly regulated routine that having diabetes requires from me.