How A Horse Changed My Life

A testimony from Heather, a young warrior

“I was going
downhill fast”
My name is Heather and I would like to take some time to talk about an opportunity that changed my life forever. In March of 2018 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and did not think I could ever feel anything but pure joy again. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In July, after being back at work for a month, in a higher stress environment, I found myself acting differently. I was depressed and anxious and could not see my life through the rose colored glasses I had prior. I was constantly worrying about my daughter and I worried about not being a good enough mother, worker, officer or leader. I found myself stressed about the smallest of things like the fact that I had forgotten to get creamer for my coffee when I went to the store. Every little thing was a big deal, and I simply couldn’t understand why. I decided that I needed to get some help.

I went to my doctors (primary care and mental health) to formulate a plan. Everyone was on board, and could see there was something wrong. My primary care doctor recommended a drug and to see mental health. I immediately took the medication and started seeing mental health, but things did not get better. The drugs did not work and unfortunately made my symptoms worse as I was prescribed to take the highest allotted amount and had severe adverse reactions. I went to see mental health and was told that they didn’t know what else they could do for me, and that I understood what needed to be done and understood how to calm down. I was going downhill fast and all of the treatments that I knew to be tried, tested and true had failed me. During the same time the Remount Group had spoken at Schriever, AFB due to an increase in suicide. They spoke about how connections to animals can decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Honestly, I thought it was a lot of nonsense, but I didn’t have much else to try so I made what I now know to be the best decision of my life, and called to see if I could come by.

“There was a
beautiful horse,
I was welcomed to the horse stables with open arms. Being a single mother, I had to bring my daughter and I could see that even she was visibly less stressed, happy, and pretty thrilled that mom was a bit less stressed. I listened as they talked to me about how the therapy works and what to expect. The only thing going through my mind was that I am deathly afraid of horses and I had no idea what I was doing there, but there I was. Because I worked during the week, a volunteer, Jocelyn, was paired with me to help me through the process. Together we started by getting to know the horses. I vividly remember the first time I stepped on the other side of the fence with all of the female horses. I just stood there for a while, and Jocelyn just stood there on the other side of the fence, patient, kind and knowing this process was mine to mold. There was a beautiful horse, Tilly, who walked up to me and showed me how kind horses can be. I was able to lead her out, groom her, and put her back. I kept coming back and over the year I went from looking at horses and having Jocelyn take them out to groom them, to picking a horse of my own, leading them to the pen, doing groundwork with them, and in the last few months, going on trail rides (something I NEVER thought I would be able to do). The growth that I saw in myself in regards to being comfortable around horses was phenomenal, but that wasn’t what was important.

Here is what I learned in my year at the stables. First, connection is everything. Being able to connect, speak, and be heard is one thing but to be able to simply be in the presence of someone or something, like a horse, and have an understanding of each other brings a whole new meaning to connection. That genuine, true connection, showed me what to look for in humans, not just horses. It helped me to rebuild relationships and to rid my life of those that were no longer healthy. This step, helped me tremendously. I also learned how to communicate. With a horse, you can’t simply use your words, you have to understand their mannerisms and work to communicate in a way that they understand and makes sense with what they experience in their natural habitats. This sounds so silly, but this helped me immensely understand how to communicate with others on a whole new level. I, now, will try to understand the individual, their life story, their values/morals, and what makes them tick, before trying to build a genuine connection. I do this for two reasons, I am able to let the right people into my life, and I am able to serve and connect with them on another level. This intense connection helped me get out of my depression and talk with others about it.

“every time I connected with a horse, my perspective changed.”

I also learned a thing or two about trust, loyalty and respect. When you think about it, horses are wild animals, and they could really hurt humans if they wanted. We cannot force them to do what we want. There is no perfect answer or right way to always do things with them. The only way for you to have a successful relationship is for you to build trust, loyalty and respect. This also helped me realize there is no need to be perfect. There is no need to get upset when I forget coffee creamer at the store, I am not a failure, I am simply human, and if I am kind to myself, I will get through anything. THIS was my saving grace. It helped me let go of the control I so desperately was clinging to. I am now in charge of another human’s life, and if I try to control her, she will not grow up to be the person I want her to be.

There are so many other lessons that I learned from my time at the stables. If I had to sum up everything in just a few words, I would say that the stables gave me a new perspective on what is and is not important in life and what should and should not stay in my life. I don’t know what I would have done without the stables. I wouldn’t be the person I would want to be, I wouldn’t be the mother I want to be, and I wouldn’t be living the amazing life I am living now. The beauty about this, was it was not just a three month session where I had to be fixed and perfect by three months. I came on good days and I came on bad days. But every time I connected with a horse, my perspective changed back to the truth about what is important and who I am. I genuinely don’t know where I would be without Remount, Jocelyn, or the horses that changed my life forever.