A few weeks ago, we sent out a call for stories from readers about how horses have helped them through tough times. Man, oh man, did you guys respond.
I spent hours combing through the stories and went through at least a box of tissues in the process. Your tributes to the horses that have touched your lives moved me in ways that shot straight through to my soul. They were stories of horses helping you through heartbreak, sickness, loss, abuse and utter brokenness. They made me smile, and they made me weep. Reading them, I realized that there was no way I could choose one above the rest for the honor of receiving the grand prize, a Back on Track therapeutic sheet, to help return the healing favor to your furry Freud. Putting your various life experiences to a vote just didn’t seem right. So I decided to do the fairest thing possible: draw an essay at random for the sheet, and we’ll share each and every one here on Horse Nation in the coming weeks and months for an opportunity to win additional prizes and enable more people to give back to the horses that have helped them through so much.
Thank you so much to our new sponsor Back on Track for making this contest possible, and congratulations to Holly Evans–your “equine therapist” is the proud new owner of a Back on Track therapeutic mesh sheet! We’re honored to share your essay as the first in this very exciting new Horse Nation series.
Imagine: you’re sitting in class, trying to pay attention to the teacher’s lectures, when all of a sudden your chest starts hurting. Your heart is racing, you can’t breathe, and you feel a wave of panic come over you. The world is closing in on you. You feel like your mind is fading away and nothing looks real. You can’t focus or think. Everything in your body is screaming at you that something is horribly, horribly wrong and you need to get out of there. Now, imagine that happens to you several times a day, and you can’t predict when or where it’s going to hit you. This is a panic attack, and you probably know someone who has them. Let me tell you, they are not fun. Your brain decides to tell your body that it is in a life-or-death situation, and sends the body into flight-mode. This can save your life in an actual dangerous situation, but the rest of the time, it’s terrifying. I first started getting them when I was about 15 years old. It got to the point where I was so afraid of having one, I refused to leave the house. I was terrified to go to school. Just walking outside was an act of bravery for me. It took me over a year of therapy to get to the point where I could go out in public, but I was still a nervous wreck all the time. I had no idea what was going to happen to me or how I was ever going to be able to live a normal life. I was dangerously depressed.
Then I started dating this guy who had horses. My mom and brother had horses when I was little, but I had always been afraid of them. Now, I discovered I had an understanding with them. I knew what it was like to be afraid of everything. The guy boarded at a training barn, and the owner was going to teach him to start a horse. I got to watch them start this tiny, awkward, grade three-year-old filly, never been touched. When they brought her into the barn, she looked right at me, and I knew then and there she was my horse. I convinced my then-boyfriend to let me buy the horse (he wanted to buy her), and the trainer said he would help me train her. That was almost five years ago. She has turned from an ugly duckling into a beautiful, smart, talented mare. She has taught me how to handle my fear, and how to be able to think through the panic. She taught me to be brave and confident. She gave me reasons to live and goals to work toward. She gave me my life back.
I’m in college now, working towards a degree in chemical engineering. My mare and I just began eventing Starter-level and hoping to move up to Beginner Novice soon. I got an OTTB gelding that I am retraining and hope to event, too. I still have panic attacks, but they don’t hold me back anymore. I’m no longer always nervous, and my friends actually call me a daredevil. They say horses are great therapists, and I am living proof of that. I owe my life to my little mare. She has earned herself a home and will be spoiled rotten for the rest of her life.
Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!