Harnessing the Healing: Equine Therapy for Cancer Patients by Sally Keys

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One of the most rewarding and empowering experiences during my cancer recovery (from stage 4 ovarian cancer) was the equine therapy I received at Miwok Stables in Mill Valley, California. 
I encourage you to find similar programs in your community for anyone who is struggling with cancer and chronic disease.
I am delighted to share with you an article by Sally Keys, a freelance writer who specializes in health and nature topics.

Harnessing the Healing

Coming to terms with the changes to your body is the great physical challenge of a cancer diagnosis. Equally so incredible is the mental challenge. Medical treatment is prescribed to target the physical cancer, but this does not necessarily remove the strain placed on the mind and the soul. To enable a comprehensive recovery, patients must often seek additional complementary care. An excellent way to address both the mind and the body is engaging in equine therapy.

Mindful Activities

Both the mere presence of horses and a more involved program of interaction can prove comforting and rehabilitating for cancer sufferers. Horses are creatures of the present, responding only to what is immediately around them rather than becoming anxious about the abstract future. 
This mindset helps people who interact with them, and is a kind of mindfulness; rather than focusing on yourself, and potentially therefore your condition, you focus on the horse.
This helps participants to feel that they are exactly that: participants, rather than victims, and that they are capable of overcoming challenges and making progress which previously seemed too difficult.

Mobility and Motion

Equine therapy is particularly helpful in that it can be adapted to include varying levels of physical activity, as well as mental engagement. Horse riding is a well-known activity for those with physical disabilities,  offering mobility and physical freedom.
Most programs offer riding and non-riding options, as plenty of ground-based care tasks such as grooming are relaxing and low-stress. For those who have had prolonged periods of inactivity in hospitals or are suffering from the side-effects of medical treatment, equine care has been demonstrated to increase mobility and physical strength amongst breast cancer survivors, in addition to improving their overall quality of life.

Supporting Evidence

Studies of the benefits of equine therapy have also been undertaken on people suffering from other deeply challenging conditions, and proven to be effective at helping people to feel more in control of their emotions, more confident, and better able to deal with difficulties in their lives.
These are all things which will undoubtedly benefit those suffering from or in recovery after cancer, who may experience similar emotions.
Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder reported feeling less depressed and less anxious; and young women diagnosed with social anxiety felt a greater sense of accomplishment and self-worth. The connection built with an equine partner encourages people to focus on their new skills to achieve balance in their body and mind, both important steps on the road to recovery, and ones which are easier taken with the support of a horse.

The Author …

Sally Keys is a professional freelance writer who specializes in health and nature topics. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and traveling as much as possible.

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