Mixing depression and anxiety with the love of horses

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Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

BY PEARL RUNNING DEER

Covid-19 has placed society in a world we have never known before. Humans were not meant for total isolation. Human contact – even hearing a human’s voice – is necessary for survival. We are people who like to walk in the sun, dance in the rain, hear happy sounds and smell the flowers.

As the pandemic became more manageable, we were pushed back into society at lightning speed. The sun hit us in the face. The rain is cold and it was like people were looking through us. Living with yourself for two years has become a mirror. A lot of people didn’t like what they saw in that mirror. The human race came out of their homes, with unexpected baggage. It was neither planned, nor realized, nor wanted, but… here it is.

Depression can make you emotionally distant, fake a smile, socially isolate you, overeat, or not eat at all.

Anxiety can cause you to overestimate things, especially when it comes to other people’s emotions for which you may feel overly responsible. You run on empty and need to take a step back from everything. So you can reload and get back to normal.

People with depression or anxiety (which we all experience from time to time) have triggers. Triggers can happen when you’ve been violated, neglected, or a wound that hasn’t healed yet. But when these negative triggers appear, horses can be incredibly healing.

Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

Trigger: The longer you keep seeing the same four walls, the more you don’t want to get out. Because you feel like no one wants to see you or misses you.

Solution – Go to the stable: A change of environment will do you good. The journey to the barn. The car windows are rolled down, the fresh air caresses your face. You can smell freshly cut grass or pine trees. Pull into the stable alley. Your heart is racing, you are going to see your best friend. Just walking up the aisle relaxes you. One of the passengers sees your car and waves to you. Your horse growls at you and runs for the fence. Never underestimate the power of a horse tacker!

Trigger: Depression can also make you angry. You cannot solve the problem. You can’t get out of this bad situation.

Solution – Clean Stalls: If you are a cross-border worker, ask the manager if you can help clean the stalls. There is something about a clean barn that smells of pine or cedar shavings that comforts the soul. Especially when you did it yourself. It also helps vent frustration stabbing your crotch into someone else’s mess.

Trigger: Having no energy to do anything or be with anyone. Nobody cares.

Solution – Brush your horse: Feeling something warm, snuggling against you without wanting anything, calms the mind. Removing all the dirt (they must have found a puddle of mud if your horse senses you are coming!) gives you exercise while still achieving a shiny coat result. Your horse appreciates the message and you both get bonding time.

Trigger: Depression can make you emotionally distant, fake a smile, socially isolate you, overeat, or not eat at all.

Solution – Go trail running: There is something about the color green and being alone with your horse gives you a sense of tranquility. You become aware of your surroundings. You hear the robin sing in the oak tree and see a deer out of the left corner of your eye while smelling the honeysuckles. You become one with nature and your horse. When you finally return to the stable, you are exhausted but refreshed at the same time.

Photo © ES EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY || EVELYN SZCZEPANEK

Trigger: Some smells remind you of when you were happy, but now you’re lost.

Solution – Clean your upholstery: Something about working with your hands and smelling the oil elevates your senses. A freshly cleaned saddle and bridle have a sense of personal accomplishment.

Trigger: When you shut down, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re mad at them or that you don’t like them. You cannot find the words to explain what you are going through. You don’t want to burden them with your problems. This could cause them to reject you.

The solution – Go to a horse show: Even if you’re not competing, go watch your competitors. Encourage your friends or encourage a stranger, “Just because.” Encourage a child rider who is afraid to step into the ring. Talk to people. Ask about their horse. You will find that everyone has problems. And many are in the same boat as you. They use horse shows as an outlet to enjoy the day.

When you’re depressed, things usually seem to progress more slowly than you’d like, but healing takes time. But by heading to the barn, you can spend time with your best friend who loves you unconditionally!

While seeking professional mental help is the best way to go. Being around horses can help you forget about your troubles. Even if it’s only a few hours.


Pearl Running Deer was the first Native American to ride the circuit in the 80s-2002. His trainer was Maurice Honig from the French equestrian team. She will follow the teachings of Frank Chapot or Bert De Nemethy. In From 2003 to 2013, she was a high fashion model at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York. In the meantime, she worked with film directors, being a girl on Friday. Ms. Running Deer teaches, coaches in horse shows, and gives clinics. She founded a non-profit association Turtle Island Equestrian Inc. Creation of a Native American equestrian team. Ms. Running Deer is also a freelance writer.

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