The ability of horses to aid healing has been recognised since ancient times. It shouldn't be any surprise that riding provides physical and psychological benefits for those suffering from cancer or recovering from cancer treatment.
Alleviating Depression and Stress
Cancer can often leave sufferers feeling incredibly distressed. It is disturbing for them to feel that they have lost control of their own bodies and their confidence may be low as a result. Riding enables patients to learn new skills and so boosts their self-esteem. It is also a valuable and uplifting distraction when patients really need to take their mind off their illness. Connecting with an animal is a calming and life-affirming experience which may ease the symptoms of depression. When riding, cancer patients must focus on what they are doing and so are able to live in the moment rather than worrying about their condition. With their spirits lifted and having enjoyed a break from the treadmill of treatment, cancer patients can discover renewed strength and a greater sense of peace.
Addressing Physical Weakness
With regular riding, patients are able to improve their balance and coordination whilst rebuilding strength and muscle mass which may have been lost during their treatment process. Physical activity is always beneficial. The enjoyment of riding will encourage people to keep on the move when they may otherwise give up on exercise.
Riding can be a very sociable activity which enables cancer patients to gain valuable emotional support. The change of scenery is also a major plus point as daily treatment routines can be boring and demoralising. Patients may have spent far too much time in a clinical setting. The great outdoors combined with social interaction is an excellent cocktail for lifting the spirits.
Supported by Research
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that riding is beneficial for people who have suffered any form of illness, distress or trauma. But scientific research is now supporting what many people already know. Studies consistently show that riding and interacting with horses offers many physical and emotional benefits. For instance, a study by Earles et al. found that riding resulted in participants reporting less anxiety and depression. Life throws up many difficult challenges and can leave people feeling that all hope has gone. For those who have to endure a serious illness, it can feel easier to hide away and simply give up. Giving up generally results in failure. By creating renewed feelings of hope and self-worth, whilst also enhancing general fitness and providing a welcome distraction, horse riding can play an important role in improving life and outcomes for cancer patients.