As Equestrians, we know a lot about health. Maybe not a lot about human health, but we know a lot about equine health. We know that our horses need a high quality diet in order to look and perform to their potential. We know that diet alone isn’t enough. If we kept our horses in a dark stall and fed them the best food but never groomed them, never exercised them and never let them play or relax, they would not be at their best. In fact, they would be a mess! In order for our horses to reach their genetic potential they must have sound holistic health – body, mind and spirit. The same goes for us!
Body – Nutrition is the foundation to good health. Building a solid foundation comes from eating a variety of natural, whole foods. I’m not suggesting we all dive in to the sweet feed (although, admit it – we all have) but just as we feed our horses a diet of whole foods; oats, corn, barley and leafy greens, we will also thrive from a whole-foods diet. Some of the healthiest people alive will tell you that they got that way from eating natural foods – mostly plants. Many of them also enjoy the health benefits of juicing. Eating lots of vegetables, many of them uncooked and fresh, is sure to provide you with better health and energy in just a short time. Good health starts with good nutrition but it doesn’t stop there.
Body – Just like horses, our bodies were made to move! In fact, we are more likely to suffer the effects of under-use than over-use of our bodies. Movement aids circulation and helps to remove toxins from cells, tissues, organs and joints. Three of the best things we can do for our health are to move, move, and move. Horses and humans who don’t get enough exercise are more like to suffer injuries. I know a woman who got very little exercise and literally needed to have knee surgery after trying to swat a fly in her office. All of the tissues of the body will be healthier and stronger if they are worked regularly. Many of us have put ourselves on “cubicle rest” and need to strengthen our bodies with some exercise.
Mind – If you gave your horse the best diet and you made sure he got exercise every day but he never got to see the light of day and you yelled at him and whipped him and yanked on the shank, do you think he would perform to his potential? Absolutely not! Our horses are athletes and their training is critical to their performance but just like you need a 3-day weekend every once in a while, so does your horse. Many horse trainers give the horses some time off from training and let them play with other horses or just to run and buck and play for a bit. We know that they work hard and need a mental vacation. So do we. In this day and age we all work, work, work and we may not take the time to play. We may even take our riding a bit too seriously and forget about the enjoyment of the sport if we are too focused on performance. Perhaps a trail ride, or just doing the basics for a day might be a good break for both of you.
Spirit – Let’s face it. It’s probably the spirit of the horse that attracted us to them in the first place. It’s what they do for our spirits that keeps us enamored with them and somewhat addicted to being around them. We are sure to give our horse a reassuring pat, scratch her withers, and give her a carrot because all of that is good for her spirit. Having your horse nuzzle your head or nicker when she sees you come in the barn is certainly excellent for your spirit.
As equestrians, we know how to keep a horse holistically healthy. Let us take the same perspective on our own health to improve our lives; body, mind and spirit.
Thanks for this reminder. It is funny how we often neglect the simple things to keep us in top performance shape and then blame the horse when we’re the weak part of the team.
A great article for every rider to keep in mind. It is true when a horse is “acting naughty” we are quick to judge the horse instead of the circumstances to which it is exposed to, poor diet, lack of exercise and play time.