Muzzle therapy

I had been hired to fix a troubled project. I had worked on it for about three months and it felt like fighting the wind-mills. I felt like asking the people in and around the project: “Am I the only one who wants this project to succeed?”

It had been a particularly heavy day. I talked to myself as I walked to my car at the end of the day: “Why do you take this so hard? They are not yelling at you, they are yelling at each other.” I sat into my car heading homewards. I had been driving through the city for a couple of kilometers, when I felt a huge pressure in my chest. Is it the heart or the lungs? I started wondering if this is what a heart attack feels like. I considered pulling over to a bus stop and calling 112 (the European 911). But the urge to just get home was stronger than the worry, so I kept going. I hadn’t arranged for anyone to take care of my horse, so I thought I’d try to go to the stables just to walk her from the ground for a while and give her the evening feed. Once back at home I would make an internet-booking to my employer’s occupational health doctor for first thing in the morning . . . the eight a.m. slots were often available at short notice.

Once at home, I just quickly changed to riding clothing and drove to the stables. As I arrived there were two pony girls with their moms happily chatting. I joined the discussions and started feeling a little bit better, so I decided to saddle my horse thinking that if there really is something wrong with my lungs or heart, it is less strenuous to exercise the horse sitting in the saddle than walking next to her.

There were two young riders in the manege and I joined the “horse talk” while walking around. I felt the pressure releasing from my chest and started posting trot, then cantering and in fact ended up riding a regular session.

I looked at the car clock as I left the stables. It was 21:40. I turned the car radio on and felt, physically, my face form a smile. I felt really happy. The pressure from my chest was gone and I thought: “There’s nothing wrong with my lungs or heart that a visit to the stables can’t cure.” And I never did book that doctor’s appointment.

Horses are sensitive. They cannot act or lie. They’ll respond to your mental state as they perceive it. It is impressive to be able to communicate and cooperate with a large animal without a common language other than your own feelings and body language. A horse requires your full attention and hence offers you that moment out of the everyday thoughts and concerns.

I’ve often said to friends and colleagues: “I’m not saying that everyone should start riding. I am however saying, that find yourself an interest that you’re so passionate about that you will go to it, no matter how tired you are. Something that will give your brains a rest. Something that will make you focus and think about something else besides work, family or other worries.”