From time immemorial, Botswana has always been a community that lives with, and invests in animals. Agriculture, as well as tourism, are one of the country’s major economic contributors and a means for the ordinary Motswana to take care of his/her needs. The rearing of cattle is the most popular nomadic farming activity practiced by a majority of Batswana families, be it for commercial or subsistence purposes. However, there is a wide spectrum of animal farming that has yet to be extensively explored by Tswana farmers. A good friend of mine took me for a horse ride recently and it sparked a certain curiosity within me about the farming of horses as well as the non-monetary benefits of adding this majestic beast to your herd of farm animals. After my horse riding experience and a long search on the internet, I discovered equine therapy.
Equine therapy has been defined as a form of psychological treatment that involves interaction with horses. The psychological issues that may be alleviated through equine therapy are behavioural disorders, traumas, compulsive disorders, anxiety, depression and other emotional & mental problems. According to crchealth.com, the psychological benefits related to continuous contact with horses may include an improvement in; Assertiveness, Emotional awareness, treating addictions, Empathy, Stress tolerance, self-actualization, Impulse control, interpersonal skills and so on. You may be wondering, ‘how is riding a horse going to make me a psychologically healthier person?’ well, you will be glad to know that there is a lot more to horses than just adrenaline-charged rides.
Horses are highly sociable creatures with a great ability to detect emotions. When I travelled to Mogobane for my horse riding experience, the horse I was given was jumpy and uneasy, which was terrifying for a first-time rider like myself. But it was apparently acting that way because it was able to sense my anxiety, it responded to me how I normally respond to other people or first-time experiences. The instructor therefore told me to do some exercises to somewhat establish ‘trust’ between the horse and I. I crawled under it, groomed it and stood behind it with its hind legs only a mere inches away from my body. As petrifying as the exercises were, the horse began to calm down and it became more accepting to my presence and responsive to my commands. I was asked to give it instructions with a firm voice, to show it that I am his leader as much as I am his friend. Later on, I was told to move around the horse I had been riding, amazingly, as I moved around it, its ear followed my movement waiting for me to give it instructions. It was yet another confirmation that horses are friendly animals, like humans, that improve interpersonal skills through building trust.
From this experience, I walked away with an appreciation of proper communication, setting boundaries as well as learning to calm down without letting new experiences give me anxiety. Equine-Assisted therapy is extremely helpful if it is facilitated by a professional. Whether you are visiting the horse ranch for a wild ride or to work on your mental or emotional problems, horses are great animals to interact with. But you don’t have to take my word for it, locate Botswana horse ranches and gain your own equine experience.