Elodie Degage

The Intersection of Equestrian Sports and Mental Health: Insights for Nursing Professionals


Introduction: A Personal Connection

Today, I want to share with you a perspective that combines two significant aspects of my life – my love for horses and my journey in the field of nursing. Specifically, I’d like to delve into how equestrian sports can provide valuable insights into mental health, an area of increasing importance in nursing.

Equestrian Sports: More Than Just a Hobby

For as long as I can remember, horses have been a part of my life. Growing up, I found that riding wasn’t just a physical activity; it was also incredibly therapeutic. The bond between a rider and a horse is unique – it’s built on trust, understanding, and non-verbal communication. This connection has a profound impact on mental well-being, something I’ve experienced firsthand and have seen in others.

Understanding the Mental Health Benefits

Equestrian sports require a combination of physical skill and mental focus. As a rider, you must be present and aware, not only of your own actions but also of the horse’s. This level of mindfulness – being fully engaged in the moment – is a powerful tool in managing stress and anxiety. The calming effect of being around horses, often referred to as ‘equine therapy’, is well-documented and is something I’ve found to be incredibly beneficial in balancing the demands of nursing school.

Lessons in Empathy and Non-Verbal Communication

One of the key aspects of nursing is the ability to empathize and communicate effectively, often without words. In equestrian sports, communication with the horse is primarily non-verbal. This has helped me immensely in developing my skills in non-verbal communication and empathy – understanding and responding to the needs of patients who may not always be able to articulate their feelings or pain.

Building Resilience and Emotional Strength

Nursing, much like equestrian sports, can be emotionally challenging. Working with horses has taught me how to handle difficult situations with patience and resilience. In the saddle, I’ve learned to stay calm under pressure, a skill that is invaluable in the high-stress environment of healthcare. My experiences in equestrian sports have provided me with a strong foundation to face the emotional challenges that come with nursing.

The Role of Physical Activity in Mental Health

It’s no secret that physical activity is beneficial for mental health. Equestrian sports, being physically demanding, have been a great way for me to maintain physical health, which in turn supports my mental well-being. This connection between physical and mental health is something I’m keenly aware of as a future nurse, and it’s a principle I plan to share with my patients.

Equestrian Sports as a Form of Self-Care

In the demanding world of nursing, self-care is crucial. For me, riding has always been a way to recharge and find balance. The time spent with horses allows me to disconnect from the pressures of school and clinical rotations, giving me the mental space to reflect and rejuvenate. As nurses, finding an activity that provides this kind of mental break is essential for our well-being and, by extension, the quality of care we provide.

Applying Equestrian Insights to Nursing Practice

The insights I’ve gained from equestrian sports have had a significant impact on how I approach my nursing education and future practice. The skills I’ve honed – mindfulness, empathy, resilience, and an understanding of the mind-body connection – are directly applicable to nursing. I believe these skills can enhance the care we provide, particularly in the realm of mental health.

Conclusion: A Synergistic Relationship

As I near the completion of my nursing degree, I reflect on how my experiences with equestrian sports have enriched my understanding of mental health. These experiences have not only benefited me personally but have also provided me with valuable tools that I can bring into my nursing practice. For anyone in the nursing field, finding an activity that nurtures your mental health is crucial. For me, it’s been equestrian sports, but it can be anything that connects you to a sense of peace and well-being. As we continue to navigate the complexities of healthcare, let us remember the importance of our own mental health and the impact it has on the care we provide.

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