Waking up at the crack of dawn, freezing even with five layers on, shivering while polishing boots in the rain, cuddling on muddy hills, all while getting harassed by bees, might seem unhinged for a club sport but it’s a typical Saturday competition day for the horse girls of Georgia Tech. While most equestrians might argue that being around horses has made them more deranged, we can all agree with utmost certainty that the euphoria and companionship it brings us trumps all (alright maybe not all) madness that naturally grows with the sport.
I remember coming into Georgia Tech as a wide-eyed, ambitious freshman who believed she understood and was prepared for the academic rigor and excellency the Institute expected of her. That was until she took her first computer science class and learned how to fail for the first time! To say the least, it was a very low point for me at the time. Through all this, I never would have thought that the answer to learning how to properly breathe, finally being able to admit I’m not a straight-A student without a whirlwind of shame and tears, and truly enjoy my time at an academically rigorous college, was horses. I’ve been riding for almost six years now, but when I first started riding, it was just another passion and sport to me. I never truly understood the mental confines it helped me escape until I joined Georgia Tech’s Equestrian Club.
A typical lesson day involves carpooling with some of the girls on the team to our barn about an hour away in Fayetteville, Georgia. For those not familiar with the horse world, taking a lesson doesn’t just involve riding a horse. We first venture to the pastures to catch our assigned horse, which sometimes is a feat in itself, involving grain, peppermints, and a lot of cursing. Then the grooming and tacking process begins. Studies have shown that these simple acts of repetitive movements from brushing horses, picking their feet, leading them around, finding their saddles, putting on their bridles, can not only help with building that bond but also with soothing, calming, and easing anxiety for both horse and rider. There’s more to riding than just getting on a horse. In its own way, it’s a more nontraditional form of therapy. You learn how to build a sense of trust, confidence, and companionship with beings that can feel everything you do without an ounce of judgment. Well, sometimes you’ll get major side-eye, but nonetheless being with horses have been some of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever had.
Being in the outdoors where there’s more animals than humans, away from the busy city, truly helps create a much needed sense of serenity I struggle to find on campus sometimes. It’s not an understatement when I say the world, and with that all my worries, falls away when I go out riding. I’ve learned not to take things so seriously. When I’m walking laps around the arena with my horse in the early morning, taking in the beautiful view of nature and the sun rising, suddenly a bad grade or workload seems so trivial. Sometimes I just hug my horse, and I already feel better about everything.
Jodi Clarke, M. (2023, November 16). Equine therapy as mental health treatment: How it’s used. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/equine-therapy-mental-health-treatment-4177932